For you. For me. For us. For Christ.
In sports and in the military there is a level of camaraderie and esprit de corps that is immersed in the culture. These elements are part and parcel to a healthy and successful team or unit. And, for that matter, the same can be said concerning the family and the church. The Bible has a lot to say concerning relationships among Christians. In fact, the phrase “one another,” from the Greek word allelon, means “one another, each other; mutually, reciprocally.” It occurs 100 times in the New Testament and 59 of those occurrences are specific commands teaching us how (and how not) to relate to one another.
On that note, several years ago a mentor looked me in the eye and said, Stockton I am “for you.” I had no idea what he meant so I asked him, what does that mean? He said, “I’m going to do everything I can to help you succeed. I will hold you accountable but I’ve got your back and I’m never going to give up on you.” From that moment on I was compelled to ask myself, can I be “for” someone like my mentor? Is it conditional? Is it emotional? I immediately began to think about my wife and sons and I was confident that I was “for” them. Now that my sons are married and I have grandchildren, I instantly added them to my list. The more I thought I knew that my parents, brother and sisters were on that list. The list kept growing and growing. And then I questioned, what about people who are the church? My pastor? My deacon? My small group leader? The children? The youth? My friends on the softball team? The questions kept coming. For example, do I even care? And, when do I care?
I was still in the military at the time so I thought these questions through with the military as a backdrop. I reasoned, I didn’t always like everyone I served with. I didn’t always agree with my leaders. Beyond that, there were a few of those in my unit I socialized with outside the times we were considered on duty, but most of them can be described as a strictly professional relationship. So why did camaraderie and esprit de corps permeate our culture and way of life? I realized that it was likely a bond formed from a common oath, common mission, common training and systematic interdependence. In that sense, we were “for” each other to thrive and succeed. In the end, we had to depend on each other and the mission was at the forefront of our minds. After all, losing wasn’t an option. You might say it was for you, for me, for us and for the nation as a whole. It was certainly bigger than any one person, any one unit and even any one branch of the military.
With that in mind, I began to try and understand how my military experience compared to my church experience. I thought through a list of things. I was always in a Bible study or two. I served in several ministries over the years. I gave faithfully to the local church ministry. I made some good friends and we hung out. All in all, you can say I was connected, involved and serving. But the question remains, who was I actually “for” and why? I began to list some names from every church in every town we had lived but then I stopped and realized that my actions didn’t always support my affections and wishful thinking. I wondered, did these people know I was “for” them? Did my actions substantiate my desire? And, of course, were there times it was obvious my attitude and actions proved that I wasn’t “for” them. Wait. How can this be? In the church?
As you might imagine, I was really soul searching as they say. How do I put this in perspective? Well, okay. Sports are for fun. The military is for freedom. Now that is significant. But, is there anything that has a more weighty and eternal mission than the church? As such, shouldn’t our relationships with other Christians reflect that we are “for” one another? By the way, what did Jesus say concerning this issue? JN 13:34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” So then, what is this love that Jesus speaks of? 1 Corinthians 13:1-8a defines it for us. Beyond that, the Greek word for love in this particular passage is agape which means to sacrificially, unconditionally meet the need of another person. Just so we nail this down, it isn’t a feeling.
As I thought about all this, in my experience it wasn’t obvious to me that churches were commonly filled with people who were “for” one another. There are a few here and there that I can think of but they were the exception not the rule. So why is that? After all, we have a common Savior. We have a common mission. Then suddenly, I paused. My mind was blank. I raced backward through my thoughts about this. I reasoned, we have a common Savior but do we have a common love for Him? The Apostle John admonishes us that our love is demonstrated by our obedience to Him. 1 JN 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. We also have a common mission but do we know what it is and are we compelled to obey it? In other words, do we live it? Jesus makes it clear for us. MT 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Further to that point, we often lack a common understanding, common training and a culture of interdependence.
If the church is going to reflect the love of Christ and reach the nations with the gospel, we must be in this together like the several “one another” phrases in the New Testament describe. If it can be done in sports and the military there is absolutely no reason it can’t be done the best possible way in the church. The foundation is the Great Commandment. MT 22:36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” In essence, we must be “for” one another. For you. For me. For us. For Christ.
A Work in Progress,