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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Word For The Week

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:

If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!

Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?

Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12


I find it incredibly amazing just how much American society is distinctly opposed to the Biblical norms. We live in the land of the Lone Ranger, a land where each individual is expected to pull himself up by his own bootstraps, a land where individual achievement is exalted above the well-being of the team. Politicians seek to shine in the spotlight even though their grandstanding hurts the efforts of their political party. Athletes seek to increase their personal glory even though their team needs to involve more players in the game. Managers seek to avoid all blame even though their supervisors need guidance and direction. We live in a land where everyone is out for self - self-service, self-gratification, self-help - but the Bible tells us that two are better than one because they have a good return for their work.

Together Each Achieves More.

It's a tired cliché but it is and has been true since times of old. If one falls down his friend can help him up, but it sucks to be the man who falls and has no one to help him up. Remember the old commercial where the elderly lady cries, "I've fallen and I can't get up!" How many times have we heard about an aunt or grandmother or sister who has broken her hip and nobody knew that she incapacitated, laying on the floor in agony for days? It happens more often then most of us would care to know. There are many people who have broken spirits and broken hearts, people who have been mentally broken down and are meandering through this life all alone with no one to help them up because in this land where we live a person keeps to themselves. In this land where we live a person simply doesn't put themselves out there. In this land where we live people's problems are pure fodder for television programming, and lest we find ourselves on Montel, Maury, or Oprah's couch confessing all to voyeuristic public we keep our personal baggage, issues, and drama to ourselves.

It's a matter of trust.

In many instances we would love to have people that we could confide in, people with whom we could share our burdens, people who we could lean on and who also could lean on us, but in too many instances we know with absolute certainty that people can not be trusted with our business. You tell one person your business today and you hear about it from someone else tomorrow. All too often people are not looking out for your best interest or mine, they are looking out for themselves, seeking their own self-gratification.

Many times it isn't that people mean you harm, it's just that they're not thinking about you, they don't understand your well-being to be their responsibility, but we who are called by the name of Jesus Christ are to take a different approach. I am my brother's keeper, and your well-being is my responsibility - and my well-being is your responsibility. You have to be able to trust me to not only keep your confidence but to build you up when you are weak, encourage you when you are feeling down, help you when you stumble and defend you when you are attacked. I have to be able to trust you to do the same for me, because when we live a life of love our loved-ones should know with absolute certainty that we will be there for them, no matter what. If I call you my brother or sister in Christ then why would I treat you like a stranger? Yet too often that is exactly the way that we treat each other within the church. Sure, we'll greet one another with a smile and a hug, but then we never speak to one another until the next Sunday. You could be going through hell on earth and all I know is that you looked nice on Sunday. I could be about to put a bullet in my brain and all that you know is that I was in church on Sunday. We have to stop playing church and start being the Church. The Church is the fellowship of believers, not merely a collection of self-professed Christians. The Church is a hospital for the sick, not a hospice for the dying. The Church is the place where believers can come together to strengthen and encourage one another, empathize and love on one another, fellowship and bond with one another. We don't just come to church, we are the Church - at church, at home, at work, at the grocery store - such that anywhere we go the peace of God follows us, and whenever or wherever we encounter another Christian Church is in session.

Because we're on the same team.

The world has tried to understand this team thing, realigning paradigms according to ISO 9000 or Six Sigma or whatever the newest management fad happens to be, but at the end of the day it boils down to this one central thing that Scripture has taught from the beginning - when you love your teammates your team will excel. People will run through a brick wall for someone they love. People will walk through fire for someone they love. People will jump in front of bullets, dive on grenades, and make the ultimate sacrifice for people that they truly love. Jesus said it best, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." But where there is no love there is nothing but self-satisfaction, self-interest, and self-serving actions.

Again, this is sin.

The center of sin is self, and every sin begins with the words, "I want..." Just ask Adam and Eve. God said that they must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but Eve saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom - she wanted it - so she took some and ate it and then gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Every sin that we have ever committed began with, "I want" and every sin that we will ever commit will begin with, "I want" - this is why we must die to self - and the best way to keep those selfish intentions in check is to maintain fellowship with other believers, members of the team, because together each of us achieves more for the advancement of God's kingdom. Lucy Van Pelt of the Peanuts cartoon gave a pointed example of this teamwork. One finger, by itself, can do very little; however, when five fingers come together and form a fist their collective power is many times greater than their individual power when standing alone. We who are called by the name of Christ need to come together, work together, and achieve together, because divided we are conquered and defeated. We who are called by the name of Christ are more than conquerors through Him who loves us, but we have to walk in that victory with our fellow believers. We who are called by the name of Christ have overcome the world by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, but we have to openly testify if we are to actualize our overcoming, if we are to make it real, if we are to be more than just another hypocrite in the church. We have to be the Church, and that means that we have to live a life of love such that our fellow believers can trust us with their hearts. That means that we have to be trustworthy enough that our fellow believers can lay with us to keep warm without worrying about their personal security. That means that we have to be strong enough in our walk with Christ that when our brother or sister is attacked we can defend them, because while one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves, and cord of three strands is not quickly broken. We have to be the Church, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit - the ultimate example of teamwork.

May the LORD bless you and keep you;
May the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;
And may the LORD,
Who wants us to be good teammates,
May He turn His face toward you and give you peace.

Emancipated by Athanasius @ 11:00 AM

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