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Devotional: Living Together

Living Together Devo Pic

 

In my devotional from last week, I mentioned that I felt like Pastor Barry’s sermon was written specifically for me. This week followed suite as he touched on a topic that Josh and I have discussed several times recently. Josh and I were married at the start of COVID. As a result of the pandemic and the continuing effects from it, our marriage has looked very different than we initially presumed.  Josh has continued working from home and since I quit my job in September of 2020, we have been together almost every day, even if he is working. In so many ways, this has been a blessing for us. He has been there to witness every sweet moment with Wesley during the day, taking quick breaks to hug us both or watch Wesley try blueberries for the first time. We are incredibly blessed with a cozy home that we love where we have an abundance of creature comforts. In a new era where people are spending more time at home and less time in public, we have come to see and experience the benefits of being together and at home so often. But what we have also come to realize is our desire to remain in the comfort of our home, and our reluctance to be in fellowship and community.

If I am being honest, spending a “night in” sounds much more appealing these days than going out with friends. It is true that Wesley is little and we are in a different phase of life. But Josh and I have both acknowledged our reluctance to engage with people because we would prefer to exercise the ability to stay in the comforts of our home. We have had to honestly reflect and talk about why this is the case; after all, Josh and I are both relatively outgoing and we enjoy being with people. We had lunch with some friends after church on Sunday and as we left, we both talked about what a blessing it was to share in the joy of how God is working in the lives of our friends and to experience their love and compassion through their desire to pray for us. This happens every single time we fellowship with others – we always leave feeling incredibly blessed and think “we should do this more often”. So why is it that the next time we are given the opportunity to fellowship, our first desire is usually to stay home?

Pastor Barry’s sermon on Sunday was a thought provoking, grace filled conviction of how I have turned away from fellowship and loving others through cultivating relationships, to hide in the comfort of my own home. He discussed how our sinfulness cultivates a desire for isolation, quoting Dietrich Bohoeffer who said: “sin demands to have a man by himself…the more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.” Pastor Barry articulated that Bonhoeffer specifically acknowledges our sin nature and the tendency for us to withdraw from fellowship with others. But in our recognition of our sin nature and these sinful tendencies, we see our need for a savior and for relationship with others so that we may confess and receive encouragement from our fellow brothers and sisters. The scripture from which Pastor Barry preached from in Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (ESV) In bearing one another’s burdens, as Pastor Barry pointed out, “we are a part of God’s rescue in someone’s life, rescuing them from wandering off.” Through this statement, I was humbly reminded of how our obedience to the Lord results in His faithful blessing. God uses us, in His sovereignty, to be a blessing to others and to be blessed by others through our willingness to walk alongside one another. We do not become the savior of other people, but as we exercise obedience to God by coming alongside others to bear their burdens with them, we receive the blessing of witnessing Him working in their lives. In turn, this grows our faith and our love for Him while strengthening our relationship with people here who can encourage us and point us to Christ.

As we wrestle through a period of time where staying home is recommended and meeting in person has been discouraged, I think it is important for us to acknowledge the attack against Christian fellowship and community. I have fallen prey to this attack, using it as an excuse to avoid the calling to bear one another’s burdens. I have neglected the call to care for my fellow brothers and sisters and instead, have sought the idol of comfort and complacency. In my sinfulness, I have sought isolation as a form of denial. By avoiding fellowship with other Christians, I avoid having to examine my own heart and the struggles I am facing. But in this recognition of my desire to avoid confronting my sin, I also recognize my need for a savior, and my heart is overjoyed that that need has been fulfilled through Jesus. Not only has that need been fulfilled, but because my identity as a child of God rests firmly in the work of Christ, through His grace, I am able to exercise obedience without the fear of failure. I can “do good to everyone, especially those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10, ESV) knowing that God, in His sovereignty, will use me according to His will.

Brothers and sisters, I deeply understand the desire of our sinful flesh to turn inward and retreat into the comfort of isolation. But in His grace, God has been faithful to remind me of how He uses our fellowship with others to reveal His love for His people, including you and me. That is not to say that entering into relationships with others is always easy; in fact, I know that often times, it is not. But as Pastor Barry reminded us in His sermon, our strength for coming alongside one another is not found within ourselves; our strength comes from Christ, who through His life and ministry on earth, provided us with the perfect example of coming along side others to love them and point them to their savior. As we praise the Lord for the work of Jesus Christ, may we also praise Him for the gift He has given us through the body of Christ and the blessing of fellowship with one another. Join me in prayer, asking God to help us exercise faithful obedience by coming alongside one another to bear each other’s burden’s until the day when we will worship Him forever in eternity, together in perfect fellowship at last!

 

Photo Credit: Ben White