suffering and rejoicing

sufferingtogether

There was a dear member of the body out last Sunday morning. I’m sure she had a gruelling week. She had just lost her husband. I watched her as tears flowed during the music. I also watched as someone from behind put a consoling arm on her shoulder. She received a number of hugs from people that morning. One gal told her that she and her family would have her over for a meal in a month or so. (Some people tend to support soon after a tragic event but sometimes forget the ongoing support that is sometimes needed.) That’s body.

A verse that I love out of 1 Corinthians goes like this:

[26] If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. (1 Corinthians 12:26 ESV)

Paul had just spent a number of verses unpacking how we are connected because of the crosswork of Christ that shredded the barrier between people groups (Ephesians 2:14) and how much we are connected and need each other to function well in the body of Christ. He’s saying we can’t go it alone. It’s like he’s shouting from the mountaintops ‘WE NEED EACH OTHER.’

We often see that in the tough times. The death of a loved one…the unexpected loss of a job…the prodigal child….the bad test results…the pains of life. We need each other for that.

We also need each other to share the exciting times…the times of rejoicing. There were a couple of men at a potluck and the one had some exciting news about a job transfer. He didn’t feel like being there but a friend sat across from him who knew about the potential move. He asked and this man perked up and shared the process of finding out about the job and the great prospects for the future. He was so thankful to God. He also got to share his concerns and how his brother could pray for him. There was some great back and forth between these two bros.

I don’t know about you but when both times come my way, I get on the phone or arrange a meeting with someone. We need each other in so many ways. When times are tough we want a listening ear. We want someone to share with and pray with. We want someone to feel our pain. We want someone who cares because we don’t want to carry the burden alone. When good times arrive we want to share in the great blessings of God, we don’t want to keep it to ourselves. A career advancement…a new discovery in God’s Word…a battle won…a family vaca…we want to share. We want someone to praise God with.

A verse that I keep coming back to is from 1 Thessalonians 2:8.

[8] So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
(1 Thessalonians 2:8 ESV)

Paul was all about the gospel but pulled up close to the brothers and sisters and shared his very life…that flowed out of the gospel. We can stare at the back of someone’s head for an hour and a half on Sunday morning but can sometimes walk away without one meaningful conversation before we get to our car. We can leave filled up from the sermon but there can be a disconnect with people. The preaching may be spot on but we so need to pull up close to a few people to care for them… to encourage them…to correct them…to have tears hit the floor with them…to break out the party hats and noisemakers and celebrate with them.

We weren’t wired for isolationistic Christianity. We were built for community. We were created to do life together. The body of Christ is for God’s glory and for our good. Are you experiencing the body today?

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