In a bible study I was having this week, I came across this verse in Ephesians 4. It said, “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Ephesians 4:25). All members of one body. Now, I grew up in the church. I have heard this metaphor my entire life. I know that the Sunday school answer is that we are all supposed to love, encourage, and lift each other up, and that is true. But this image of being the same body became new to me when I read this passage again.
I think all Christians can agree that we are at war. As followers of Christ, we are in an ongoing battle with sin and evil. My question is, isn’t that exhausting enough? Isn’t that taking up enough of our energy? Why would we spend time fighting within the body?
I thought, maybe this is because I attend a Christian University. Although I am not naïve enough to think that all of my classmates and peers are Christians, I do know that that is the environment that we are constantly submerged in. Chapel, bible studies, prayer groups, and worship nights fill the schedules. That is a wonderful thing, and I love going to school here because of it. But I also think that we as students, are somewhat sheltered to the challenges outside of our little safety bubble. As a result, we forget to keep our eyes on the prize.
It can be easy to forget where the enemy lies, and the result can be conflict and quarreling with the “allies”. The battle is hard enough when we’re fighting the enemy; we don’t need to make it any harder by fighting with our fellow soldiers.
Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”
We are called to live together, brothers and sisters, and lift each other up. None of us can finish the race on our own. Be active in your fight and invested in building the body of Christ.
“I’ll take care of it.”
“I can handle it.”
“I’ll get it done today.”
These are all phrases I find myself using pretty regularly. They’re pretty self-reliant, aren’t they? And just looking at them, they make me seem like a pretty capable person. Self-sufficiency is key, right?
In my own life, I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to be able to handle life on my own. I look around and see other people doing it, so why can’t I? So I tell myself I can. And usually, I can. Sure, the balance of life isn’t always perfect, but most of the time I can work out my schedule so that I get everything accomplished. But is that really the point?
I get so caught up in this idea that I have to have it all together. You look on social media and only see the best of people. We see people for a few minutes a day and we all put on our best faces. We’re afraid of showing weakness. We’re afraid of being vulnerable. We’re afraid to admit that sometimes, we do need help. We bury the ugly in hopes that no one will see it, and then we somehow feel better about ourselves because we’re successfully fooling everyone else. But is this healthy? Does the phrase “fake it ‘til you make it” actually benefit us?
In Genesis, God created the very first man, but knew that he would need a companion. God didn’t put Noah on the ark without his family. Even Jesus surrounded himself with believers; the twelve disciples. And Paul writes in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching”.
Not only does keeping our problems a secret hurt us, but it also prohibits us as Christians from practicing love with one another. We are called to fellowship with one another, and share our lives with one another. If someone is struggling, other Christians need to come along side and support them through their struggle. But if we aren’t sharing our burdens, then we also don’t get to practice supporting others. We keep everything focused on ourselves, which also results in a self-centered attitude. Do you see how it affects so many different things in our lives? We cannot fix our flaws if we do not acknowledge them.
The solution is this: be intentionally vulnerable. Have the courage to be afraid. Be confident enough to admit insecurity. Contradict what the world preaches to find a safe haven in each other. We are called to love and be loved. We can find solace in the peace of the Savior, and in fellowship with one another.
Don’t live alone. Do life together.
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I was sitting in church on Sunday morning, as I do every week, and there was one thing that I couldn’t get off of my mind. I am so tired. Is that a little disappointing? Maybe I should have been appreciating the worship, or the modern sanctuary environment, or the people, or the pastor’s message, but unfortunately none of those things were at the front of my focus because the long week I had just come out of was preoccupying my thoughts.
I can’t be the only one this happens to, though. Schedules are busy, school is overwhelming, workloads are heavy, activities fill our free time, and before we know it we’re sitting in service on Sunday morning struggling to keep pushing through. Being a born and raised Nazarene, that Sunday afternoon “Nazarene nap” that was coming in a few hours was really holding my focus.
Then the pastor started saying something about getting involved in the church, and taking leadership. My immediate reaction was to brush the idea away. Another responsibility to take my time? One more thing to fill my already busy schedule? No, I thought, there was no way. I couldn’t do it. Why couldn’t I just come to Sunday morning church and have a break? Why couldn’t I just sit in the service, get filled with some Jesus, and then go home?
And that was the point when the Lord started convicting.
I call myself a Christian, and I try my best to live in Christ’s example. In the Bible, Paul talks about the church as being the body of Christ – the people. Church isn’t a place you go to, it’s something you are.
I had to have a serious heart-to-heart with myself that morning. Being a Christian is not a side job. It is not an “I’ll do it when I have the time” activity. You do not get to pick the time and place. Christianity isn’t a time slot in your busy schedule. Let me rephrase that…Christianity isn’t a time slot in my busy schedule. It’s become so easy for me to prioritize the wrong things; A full course load, two jobs, extracurricular activities, time with friends, sleep…all of those things are very important, but it’s dangerous for me to allow myself to think that those things are more important than my relationship with Christ. Because the truth is when we put Christ at the top of the priority list, he gives us the strength and rest we need to do all the other things.
In Revelation 3:15-16, it says “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” Being lukewarm was exactly what I was doing. Going through the motions, singing worship songs, sitting in church, and praying when the pastor instructed, was neither hot nor cold. As it says in Revelation, that is even worse than being cold! When we claim to be a Christian but don’t allow ourselves to be on fire for Christ, we are robbing ourselves of the life God wants to give to us.
We all struggle sometimes and let things pile up. In a world that glorifies busyness, slowing down can feel like a waste of time. That’s especially true for me. We can’t allow ourselves to be lukewarm Christians. Don’t allow church, or your relationship with God take a back seat. Life gets crazy and busy, and we all make excuses for why some things are more important than others. But remember that the Savior of the world wants to give you his undivided attention, and wants to introduce you to a love and fulfillment that nothing on this earth – no activity, promotion, paycheck, or grade – can provide.