Knit Our Hearts- Ecclesiastes 4:9-11, 12

Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.
For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

COMMENTARY

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow
A threefold cord is not quickly broken
A single strand does have some strength to it. That is why when it is weaved with another it is able to increase its power. But two cords woven as one has more than double the strength of each individually. Similarly, two oxen, when pulling together, are able to carry far more than a double load.
A man alone is in danger of falling to all manner of temptation and self-harm. This is why in addiction recovery they teach individuals to make connections to one another, to be accountable to each other at low times. Once one has a companion in the hard place, the likelihood of a relapse begins to plummet.
The bonding of two souls is one of the most enchanting mysteries I know of. Somehow the two retain perfect individuality, yet also become a single unit. No matter how big a number it is, it can only become greater by addition. Similarly, no matter how strong of an individual you are, you will always be greater with a companion.

Knit Our Hearts- Personal Example

Last week the city I live in had a festival, one where the entire community pitched in to create a number of family-centric events. On Saturday they planned to have a little carnival, and each of the local church groups volunteered to run a different booth. At each one children could pay one ticket and then play a simple game and win prizes.

My church branch called me the week before to see if I would be willing to take ownership of the booth along with one other couple. They probably would have asked my wife as well, but she was had volunteered to take the women youth to a girls’ camp that week.

All of which is to say that I was assigned a task, and had as my only companionship an older couple that I did not know very well. I knew of them, I had heard them speak at various times in church meetings, but I honestly couldn’t remember ever having a direct conversation with them in the past. I felt that we simply moved in different circles.

Over the course of that week we spent hours together. We had planning meetings, we sought out additional volunteers to help run the game, we setup the booth, manned it, and finally took everything back down at the end of the day.

In all that time we spoke a great deal, but never did we have that “magical moment” where we suddenly realized that we had so much in common. Life is not a Hallmark Movie, and at the end of it all we still move in entirely different circles.

And yet…at the end of it all I did feel that I had made two friends. Because in the end we did actually share something together. An experience. It was a little something, but it was mutual. And whenever we share something, no matter how small, we start to build a kinship.

Too often I limit my friendships to those that I share personality traits with. To like you, I have to find something like me in you. And there isn’t anything wrong in seeking those relationships, but it is restricting if they are the only ones I will consider.

Sharing personality traits is good, but I can also learn to love others by sharing experiences with them. And then, if I continue to share experiences and build bridges with a wide variety of brothers and sisters, perhaps eventually I will also learn to love others just for sharing in our common humanity. For sharing in the journey of Earth life. For sharing a Father in Heaven. For sharing a divine potential.

Knit Our Hearts- James 3:2 (NIV); Proverbs 9:9, 27:17

We all stumble in many ways.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

COMMENTARY

We all stumble in many ways
Give me a list of moral dilemmas, ethical quandaries, and human behaviors to judge. I will answer each one and I will invariably feel that all of my answers are the right answers, or in other words I will feel that my opinion is the same as God’s. Every man believes that he judges rightly.
But if I ask you to answer this same list of questions, you might answer some the same as me, but you will inevitably answer others of them differently. And for all your answers you will be just as convinced of your own rightness as I am of mine, and this would mean that at least one of us must be wrong, even when we are convinced that we are right.
If we’re being perfectly honest, though, it isn’t just one of us that is wrong. Neither you nor I will be totally right in all of our judgments because we are flawed and imperfect beings. In one of our disagreements I might be the one in error, but in another disagreement it might be you.
Every man believes that he judges rightly, but every man is at least somewhat mistaken.

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser
A man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend
Exploring the differences in our beliefs can be a painful exercise, because it is very easy to get one’s pride tangled up in it. If one is not careful, then feelings are hurt and bitterness comes out. However, if both parties are willing to shelve their pride and sincerely seek truth, then something remarkable occurs.
First we can examine our areas of disagreement objectively. By questioning our motives we may discover a bias that blocked our discernment. With time and care we can each improve, or sharpen, the other’s understanding.
There is another benefit as well. Though we may have differences of opinion, we also certainly have agreements. As I suggested yesterday, in those places where our opinions overlap our confidence in having judged rightly greatly increases. There, in our mutual agreement, we begin to see God in our midst.

Knit Our Hearts- Matthew 18:19-20, Mark 6:7

Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits;

COMMENTARY

For where two are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them
And began to send them forth by two and two
Yesterday we observed that God believes in the power of individuals united together as one. In these verses we see that Jesus shares fully in that sentiment! He didn’t send the disciples out alone, he sent them together, and further he promised them that whenever they bonded together, he would join that union.
There’s something about coming together with our fellowman that unlocks the spirit of Christ among us. Living life as a “lone wolf” doesn’t only deny us the companionship of another mortal, it denies us the full presence of our Lord.

If two of you shall agree on earth and shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father in heaven
I have always been familiar with the promise Christ gave of being in the midst of two or three gathered in his name, but I did not remember the additional promise mentioned here as well. When two of us agree in what we feel is right, we can ask it of God and He will grant it.
When I read this it gave me quite some pause, it seems a remarkably potent promise! I’ve frankly wondered why we would be trusted with such power. One thought that occurs to me is that people have a lot of differences in perspective and desire, but the parts of their beliefs that overlap tend to be the holy parts. For example we may disagree on specific political and ethical matters, but we each share a desire for the wellbeing of society. Whenever two people can find something that they don’t differ in, it is because they have found a part of God inside of them. That agreement can give them confidence, then, to pray in faith, knowing God will bless their petition.

Knit Our Hearts- Genesis 2:18, Genesis 11:6

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

COMMENTARY

The people is one…and now nothing will be restrained from them
If one seeks evidence that there is great power in united individuals, that person need look no further than God’s own perspective of such unions. From verses like this it is clear that God respects the awesome potential of humans coupled together. In this moment God is speaking of a time when the people had a perfect understanding of each other, and of them He said that they had the power to accomplish whatever they imagined.
Think of how different that message is from the one of the world. Consider heroes like James Bond, Indiana Jones, or Superman. These are individuals who are truly individual, men who need no one but themselves to win the day. They are tantalizing fantasies, but they are fantasies. Yes, relationships are complicated and sometimes it seems that life would simpler if we could just stand by ourselves. But the reality baked into our humanity is that “it is not good for man to be alone.”

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
In my last study I explored the idea of a united community, something that God is clearly in favor of. However a community is not the social unit that He created in the beginning. First He just put two together, and for then that was enough. For this study I will be looking at these more intimate ties: those of companionship, soul mates, bosom friends, and kindred spirits.

The Family of God- 1 John 4:7-8, 11

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

COMMENTARY

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love
I think we all know that we are supposed to love each of God’s children…but sometimes we just don’t. How can we make ourselves feel things for those that we don’t know, or for those that irritate or even offend us? It seems an impossible requirement.
But then, when I look at my young son I realize that most of us were once able to love so freely, when we were still children. Children are able to love others as soon as they meet them, children are able to forgive and restore love instantly. But while growing up we become jaded and cynical, we start making stipulations to limit the affection we show our fellow man.
That does not have to be the end of the story though. The maker of all things is also the re-maker of the heart.
We must never forget that we did not invent love. We are not the authors of how it works. We are not the ones that set the rules for when it comes into the heart. All we have power over is whether we keep it out.
God is the gatekeeper of love, and the closer we get to Him the more love He gives us for His children, the more He restores our natural affection for all mankind, the more He binds us to them. Perhaps you cannot make yourself love another, but God can.

Service to Others- Question

Sometimes I will choose a topic of study just because I’m curious about the principle. Other times I will choose one because it is something I know I am weak at. This is a case of the latter.

Serving at home is actually pretty easy for me, probably because it is primarily self-serving. I like having the house clean, I have fun when playing games with my son, I get a lot of self-gratification by being a good provider to my wife. But when it comes to reaching outside of our house? Well, I am an introvert, so I generally just don’t.

Now that is not meant as an excuse. It’s simply a recognition of a real hurdle that I need to deal with. My hope is that in this study and practice I will find the power to do just that. This series is going to be a lot more personal than previous ones. We’ll still base each day around a scripture, but then I want to be accountable with you for how I am trying to live out the messages we find in them.

Now I know I’m not the only person to ever feel this way, and if any of you have anything to offer I would love to hear about it! Any scriptures that helped you to see others the way that God does? Any words of wisdom for how to step out of your comfort zone? I’m all ears.