Living Together

It’s hard work, isn’t it?  Even in the best relationships, being with someone every day, all the time, is difficult work.  

Is it any surprise that it is difficult for those in the Church, living together throughout our lives?  I’m privileged to serve a congregation where some folks have known each other and been church family for over 50 years.  That’s a long time to live together in the Christian faith, to worship together every week, to wash dishes in the kitchen after potlucks or share the stove in preparing food beforehand.  It’s a lot of voters meetings to weather, potentially a lot of contentious decisions to live through.  Yet like those lifelong marriages we all admire, the Christian life together is inspiring and a thing of beauty.
But hardly easy.  Far less easy than breaking things off when things get difficult.  
I sat with brothers in the ministry this week and we talked in frustration and pain over the division within our denomination as evidenced in the past couple of weeks and referenced here at my blog.  We were fairly unified in our unhappiness with what happened.  But what struck me is that it is very easy to resort to the same tactics in discussing those you disagree with, when what you’re upset about are the exact same tactics employed by them.  In other words, it is easy to get caught up in righteous indignation at someone you think is acting self-righteously.  
Easy, but not very helpful.  Certainly not helpful when cultivating a life together that spans individual as well as communal lifetimes.  As such, the excerpt this morning in my daily devotional from Luther’s writings seemed very appropo:
“Receive your disreputable and erring brothers and put up with them patiently and take on their sins as your own.  and if you have anything that is good, let it be theirs.  if you think of yourselves as being better than these brothers, then do not take yourselves so seriously as if anything good could only belong to you, but, instead, humble yourselves and be like one of them so that you can carry them along with you.  For it is a wretched form of justice when Christians will not put up with people they regard to be worse than they are.  And you take flight from them and go into solitude instead of being of immediate use to them by your patience, prayer and good example.  If you are either a lily or a rose, then realize that your life must be lived among thorns.  Take care that you yourself do not become a thorn on account of your intolerance and outrageous judgments or secret pride.  The Kingdom of Christ is situated in the midst of His foes.  What fantasies are you dreaming up then with your kingdom amidst friends?”

– Martin Luther – 

2 Responses to “Living Together”

  1. Lois Says:

    Brought to mind a favorite quote from Thomas a Kempis’ “Imitation of Christ”

    “Endeavor to be patient in bearing with other men’s faults and infirmities whatsoever they be, for thou thyself also hast many things which have need to be borne with by others.”

  2. Paul Nelson Says:

    Amen!

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