Not just Jesus and Me
This past summer our family took a trip to Spring Mill State Park which is home to nearly two dozen historic buildings to explore. As we walked with our children through the dirt roads and peeked into the world of the early 1800s, I couldn’t help but be reminded how different our life is from the lives of the many people before us. The kids watched in awe as the giant water wheel spun around and around while kernels of corn turned into corn meal inside the flour mill. I closed my eyes and imagined the room bustling with farmers, coming from miles away with their harvest and their entire livelihood, waiting for their turn at the mill.
Sunday morning we trekked back into the town, watching our breath as we exhaled into the chilly 45 degree air, and hurrying to make it into the old meeting house in time for the church service. Sitting on wooden benches, we grabbed our hymnals, and joined in song by the dim flickering candlelight. As we sat and worshipped together in that small, one room meeting house, I couldn’t help but think of all of the men and women, parents and children, brothers, and sisters- who worshipped in this same way so many years before.
Sitting there on that wooden bench that morning reminded me of the bigger body we are a part of. Filling the pages of the Bible is a story of God’s love for his bride- the church. It is for the church that Christ gave himself up (Ephesians 5:25). He sanctified her, cleansing her so that he might present her in splendor- without spot, wrinkle or blemish. It is the church he is jealous for (2 Corinthians 11:2), and the church he rejoices over (Isaiah 62:2). One day he will come back and completely redeem this church- and together we will stand before his throne (Revelation 7:9).
Maybe it’s the language we have grown up using, or maybe we are just influenced by our culture’s obsession of independence, but I think we can easily fall into the trap of forgetting that we are a part of this body. We talk about our personal relationship with Christ, our own special quiet times, and what the Bible “spoke to us” today. Yes, all of this greatly matters, and we should faithfully serve and grow in our own maturity each day- but a danger lies when we forget his love and mission for the whole church.
When our minds are focused solely on our own walk with God, it is easy to slip into pride as we prioritize our ideas, our service, and our experiences above our other brothers and sisters in Christ. This tunnel vision causes division and even prevents reconciliation, as we see each other no longer with a unified mission or purpose, but as people to oppose. What if we saw it a different way? What if we remembered that those same people we were hurt by, the ones we want to pull away from, the ones it seems too hard to love because of our differences- are the members of Christ’s church that God loves and is jealous for just as he is for us. How would our hearts grow in grace as we reminded ourselves daily of our shared mission?
Along with growing in humility and grace, this perspective spurs us on to pour into in the people of God’s church. When we know our shared mission in the body of Christ, it is impossible to not see the value in investing in those members who are right around us in our local church. Hebrews 10:25 echoes the importance of this as we are reminded to not give up looking for ways to encourage each other, and to do it even more as the world becomes more difficult.
Even as we pour into others in the church, we are given a great encouragement in return. Hebrews 12 tells us,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
When we see rightly see a large view of God’s church and the goodness of God to his church throughout all history, we have the ability and hope to not only complete the race God has set before us, but to run it well.
What an encouragement to remember as Micahel Horton says that as we open that Bible or sit in that chair Sunday morning, we do it as members “a community of faith together with all believers from all times and places”. It’s moms like me out in the midwest cornfields, and it’s women in the middle east who face drastically different obstacles as they serve the Lord. It includes men and women whose stories of faith we read in the Bible, and it includes the missionaries we read about in our church’s support letters. It includes people who think similar to us, and those who don’t. And yes, it includes those men and women who just like us that chilly morning at Spring Mill made the walk to the meeting house each Sunday morning hundreds of years ago to worship the same God that binds us together.
May the reminder of what we are a part of be always on our minds- humbling our hearts, giving grace that echoes into forgiveness, and filling us with hope. We may only see a small part of this body on earth right now, but one day- we will be gathered together- from every nation, all tribes, people, and languages, and we will stand before the Lamb who gave his life for the bride he loved. We will stand before the God who showed himself faithful not only in our lives but in the lives of every single person standing next to us on that day.