For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11
A few weeks ago I wrote about ‘false’ unity, that act of simply agreeing (even accommodating error) for the sake of getting along or ‘being nice’. But in the end this agreement of compromise results in the loss of our Christian witness and distinctiveness. Now in this installment I wish to hold forth the beauty and necessity of our obedience based allegiance to Jesus in community with other believers. And I will attempt to do so by drawing a couple of examples from observing those who in the past banded together, first recognizing then struggling for faithful survival in face of strong opposition.
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? 2 Corinthians 2:15,16
This aroma of Christ has always been a point of divisiveness, from Jesus’ day until today. I offer two examples then encouragement to be in community to do likewise, encouraging solidarity with the faithful through the ages and in our own unique time.
There was a time when the very nature of Jesus was a subject of debate. Athanasius (296-374) was a deacon then bishop in the church. He strongly defended the divinity of Jesus against Arius who had argued that Jesus was a created being not divinity with God. At times it looked like Athanasius was battling the whole world. (He was exiled 5 times. While in exile he was given shelter and protection by the desert monks) He earned the moniker Athanasius contra mundum (against the world). But he was also instrumental in drafting the language of the Nicene creed (like Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence). His battles were within the church against non-biblical attacks from within the ranks. His was unity and solidarity with scripture, supported by like minded believers.
I recently finished a great book: “Live not by Lies” by Rod Dreher. The book does not paint a rosy picture for practicing Christians in current western civilization here in USA. A resounding point is made that we as fellow believers in Jesus need each other deeply if we are to survive and thrive against the world (moral and ethical attacks from the post Christian culture) in which we live.
I second that point! As believers we are here to help each other against the wiles of the devil and those he holds in thrall (in his dominion). Dreher really drove the point home that I am hoping to make here. He documented and interviewed survivors and family members of devout Christians who had to go underground but maintained the flame of faith against totalitarian Communism in Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and Poland. With their backs against the wall in a hostile environment these are stories of heroes who maintained faith with little support. They stood in solidarity and survived in community.
I pray we are not near such trials, but what if we are? What if our Christian faith comes into even more increasing conflict with the external culture, affecting our employment, social associations and educational opportunities? For sure we turn to the riches of God”s promises through scripture. But we need each other more than we can imagine. And it is by God’s design.
I’ve seen wildebeests and Cape buffalo in Kenya. They are herd animals. They know that there are attackers (lions, panthers, cheetah) prowling about. But these predators don’t attack the entire flock, (they are not that strong, nor are the devil and his minions) no they attack the young, the lame the loner who strays from the flock. God knew that and in His wisdom instituted the church.
Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 1 Peter 5:8-9
We, the church, are placed here to nurture our young, to attend to our aging and feeble, to impart and receive instruction in righteousness and to look for and after the straying, all while praising the author of our salvation, our Lord and king, Jesus. Tall order for sure but it’s God’s plan, and we do it by His equipping, the steady reshaping of our lives into His image. Unity to this end is true solidarity: with God and His faithful.
David Boyd June 27, 2023
Notes: For anyone interested in more about Athanasius:
Live Not by Lies: A Manual for Christian Dissidents