Thursday, October 16, 2014

Living in unity

I really enjoy this brief little psalm:

How very good and pleasant it is
    when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
    running down upon the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
    running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
    which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the Lord ordained his blessing,
    life forevermore (Ps 133).

This is a sentiment that is perfectly at home in the Christian scriptures; it is something that goes all the way back to the beginning. Recently around Facebook I saw this quote circulating:

Then when G-d asks [Cain], ‘Where is your brother Abel?’ he arrogantly responds, ‘I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?’ In essence, the entire Bible is written as an affirmative response to this question. (Joseph Telushkin, Jewish Literacy)

The citation here from the psalms is just one piece of that long, affirmative answer to Cain's question. Brothers living together in unity is like the place where the Lord ordained his blessing, life forevermore. Indeed we may say that life forevermore will consist in at least this -- brothers and sisters living together in unity.

When considered in this light, it is amazing to me that disunity and discord can be such a ubiquitous reality in our churches. Insofar as it separates us from the Lord's blessing of life evermore, we can say that fraternal discord is from Satan himself, and it is a little presence of hell among us. The Bible speaks everywhere, everywhere of unity, love, and maintaining bonds between the people of God. More often than not, however, we seem to do the exact opposite: we provoke fights, spread rumors, talk bad about others; indeed, some persons seem to live and be empowered by conflict and discord.

How to deal with it? I don't know. Do you exclude trouble-making brothers for a time, till they learn their lesson? Do you try to encourage people to ignore them until they have no effect on the church body? Do you put up with them and let them stick around? Try to speak with them? It's hard to tell. I've experienced some persons in the church context who can't seem to get along with anyone, and don't mind it, either. Thankfully I am not yet in the position to deal with those persons.

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