It’s a “One Another” Deal
Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.Galatians 6:2 NLT
“The church exists primarily for two closely correlated purposes: to worship God and to work for his kingdom in the world … The church also exists for a third purpose, which serves the other two: to encourage one another, to build one another up in faith, to pray with and for one another, to learn from one another and teach one another, and to set one another examples to follow, challenges to take up, and urgent tasks to perform. This is all part of what is known loosely as fellowship.”N. T. Wright
When we began this series of lessons on healing, I told you that the Lord had spoken to me concerning those good Christian people who believe in healing yet struggle to receive what’s theirs. He told me that we have “holes” in our doctrine of healing. We’ve addressed 2 of those “holes” in some detail: understanding our identity in Christ and understanding the nature of faith. The third area is in our understanding of the Church. We are a community, a family, even. Yet often it seems as if we are in this thing alone. I want to take a look at the power of Christian community as it impacts health and healing.
Sometimes church leaves me unsatisfied. Don’t misunderstand me, I love church, I love the Church, and I believe in being part of the local church. I love to worship corporately, I love the teaching of the Word, and I love to party with the other saints. But sometimes I just feel like I’m washing my hands with gloves on. I’m going through all the right motions, but the job is not getting done. This is particularly true in the area of healing. We teach, we pray, and most of the time, that’s it. The sick person is now on their own. If they’ve got faith, they will be healed. If not, then “c’est la vie.” Well, that’s just not enough.
One thing that colored my perception was being a member of a 12-step program before I was a Christian. They did some things that I really missed when I entered church-world. I remember my first visit to a meeting. It was in a big hall. They were going to have someone speak to us about how they got sober. I was seated at a table in the back, and I was miserable. I didn’t know anybody, and I was sweating and shaking from withdrawals. Suddenly, a hand appeared placing a half-full cup of coffee in front of me. The chubby little man who brought it just grinned and introduced himself. That half a cup of coffee impacted my life. I knew the guy who brought it understood what it was like to be isolated, sick, and afraid. He put himself in my shoes and knew I was shaking so much that a full cup would have been a burn injury.
Later, that same man gave me his phone number and said I could call him any time if I had questions or just needed to talk. In the ensuing year, the healing God did in my mind and body was amazing. And He did it mainly through other guys who were available to walk it out with me. Nothing I could say or do seemed to discourage them, though they were often brutally honest about what they thought of my thinking and behavior. I was expected to read, pray, show up and serve. No exceptions. What I found in the church was quite different. It often felt more like going to a performance than being part of a community.
Christianity was never meant to be lived on your own. Any honest reading of the New Testament will show a group of people serving the Lord together. The New King James Version records a dozen admonitions to love one another, and 39 other “one another” verses telling the churches how to live out that single “love one another” commandment, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another (John 13:34 NKJV).”
I have struggled to write on this subject because I don’t want to criticize particular churches. When I get in a “they ought to…” mindset, it leaves me in a place of blaming someone else for my problem, and that rarely helps anyone. What I want to do is identify things that the Bible seems to indicate we should be receiving from our church experience, then find ways that I can access those blessings. It’s not ever “What should they do?” but always “What can I do?”
Our need for each other is revealed in the extensive use of the human body as a picture of the church. God did this on purpose, and He did it over and over. A few examples:
God’s purpose was that the body should not be divided but rather that all of its parts should feel the same concern for each other. If one part of the body suffers, all the other parts share its suffering. If one part is praised, all the others share in its happiness. You are Christ’s body and each of you is an individual part of it.1 Corinthians 12:25-27 GW
He makes the whole body fit together and unites it through the support of every joint. As each and every part does its job, he makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.Ephesians 4:16 GW
Our bodies have many parts, but these parts don’t all do the same thing. In the same way, even though we are many individuals, Christ makes us one body and individuals who are connected to each other.Romans 12:4-5 GW
In each of these passages, the theme is that each part of the body has a function, without which the rest of the body parts suffer. Therefore, we take care of each other and impart to each other the gifts that God has given us. If you’re one who wants to stay away from fellowship with other believers, I would say that you are out of the will of God and that it will cost you in the long run. In addition, the other parts of the body will miss something without your part. We were never designed to do this life of faith alone.
In Acts 2:44, Luke reports on the church at Jerusalem, “Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common (Acts 2:44 NKJV).” We usually understand this to mean provision, food, clothing, etc. That is certainly true, but there was clearly more than that. They were aware of something they had in common that prompted them to be spontaneously generous with others who believed. Kenneth Wuest translates it this way: “And all those who believed were gathered together as a unit and were holding all things in joint-participation.” They were a unit. It was how they viewed themselves: we are participating together in a joint operation. We are one.
To our American mindset of individual autonomy and responsibility, a community-based outlook is difficult. However the New Testament picture of a body that requires the cooperation of every part in order for any part to flourish should prompt us to consider a new paradigm. We have more in common than just being a particular race, or denomination, or gender, or social class. We share things that transcend those mundane characteristics as much as space travel transcends walking barefoot on dirt paths. We share a common faith: we believe the same miraculous story (Titus 1:4). We share a common salvation: the same grace that saved me saved you, and we are destined to be together for eternity (Jude 1:3). We share the same challenges: every trial I endure has been endured and overcome by others in the faith (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are in this together, now, and forever.
Here’s the point: In facing the tests of physical, mental, or emotional distresses, we are not meant to be alone. We are connected. We are in covenant. We are a community. When it comes to healing, being connected to others brings specific benefits:
- The power of agreement: Being in one accord brings prayer power and the power of His Presence to bear. (Matthew 18:20; Acts 2:1; 2 Chronicles 5:13-14)
- The power of submission: Being submitted to one another and to those who have the responsibility for our spiritual care allows us access to the open flow of grace. (1 Peter 5:5-9; James 4:6-8; Hebrews 13:17)
- The power of covenant, covering prayer: Paul repeatedly referenced his need for prayer and the need for the church to pray for each other that they might live out the full will of God. The prayers of intercession for those with whom God has connected us in covenant is truly where we learn to bear on another’s burdens. (Ephesians 6:18; Colossians 4:12; Romans 8:26-27; Ephesians 1:17-23; Hebrews 13:20-21)
Next Steps: Go through this teaching and look up all the references. Ask yourself this, “If I believed this verse were true, how would it change my attitude? My actions? My priorities? My relationships?” Write down your responses and review them every morning.
In our next lessons we will examine each of these three areas and learn to take our place in the Body of Christ in such a way as to receive the full benefit for ourselves, and to release the power of connection to those with whom we are connected.
Let’s do this! God wants you healed, and so do I.
Pastor Virgil Stokes