Yet not I, but we/us/our in Christ…

We’re getting near to the end of our series in the Psalms of Ascent. Last Sunday was Psalm 133 & this week I’m busy working on the last one in Psalm 134. We’ve had a great time working through them. They’re just so honest about reality of life in a world opposed to the Lord, as well as being full of God’s awesome grace to us in Jesus. You can check them out here if you’re at all interested.

But the thing that really struck me this week is the way that they change as they go through. Gradually, as the people trek up to Jerusalem time & again, the songs they sing get less and less individualistic & more and more corporate, culminating in a full set of three rejoicing in the unity of God’s people under their anointed King, together as one.

As I preached through Psalm 133 last week it really hit home to me how much we, even as Bible people, have been infected and held captive by the individualistic air we breathe. How these pilgrims rejoiced to be together, to be part of God remaking his good world as he saves his one family in Christ, united in their great high priest. How they are refreshed and find God’s blessing, and even life itself, as they point one another to the Lord. It struck me how much this is the pattern of the whole Bible, from the one united family in Genesis 1 & 2, through to the one city/bride/people in Revelation 21 & 22. How Paul tells the Ephesians that we learn to grasp the length, height, depth, & breath of God’s love in Christ ‘together with all the saints’. It goes on, & on, & on…

And yet, it seems to me anyroad, that that’s not how most of us live our Christian lives, or maybe even disciple others to live theirs. How we’ve somehow made the most important part of evangelical piety sitting by yourself with your Bible on a morning. Perhaps more books are published on ‘how to read the Bible for yourself’, or ‘how to enjoy your Quiet Time’, than owt else. The Quiet Time, it seems, is sacred! That’s where we meet with God most, right? Get people having a meaningful Quiet Time, and they’ll grow like weeds! Right?

Now don’t get me wrong (& hear me clearly here!): Having time alone in the Bible is a good thing! It is! But, if it stops there, or even if that’s the place we see our primary interaction with God’s word each day, then as far as I can see we’ve missed the whole thrust of the Bible. You see, as I read my Bible, people grow, learn, mature, in community. With others.

And it’s not just the Quiet Time. I reckon it’s why the church is infected with the consumer mentality we all moan about all the time, at the same time as moaning about all the things we don’t like about our church. It’s why spending time together with God’s people outside of Sunday seems like a pain in the backside instead of a privilege. Why even prioritising turning up every Sunday seems a struggle for some! It’s why we so often don’t want to spend time socialising with those in our church, or praying together at a time that’s inconvenient to us. It’s why it’s so hard to find Christian hymns & songs (old or new!) that include words like ‘our, us, we’ instead of ‘me, my, & I’.

Let’s face it, when we sing Psalm 133 it goes summat like this: ‘How hard & inconvenient it is when God’s people live together in unity…’ (and before anyone points the finger, I’m as guilty as any!)

Because we’ve forgotten who we are. We’ve spent so long talking about what my identity in Christ is (again, no bad thing in & of itself), that we’ve forgotten that, biblically, our identity in Christ is far more important. That when God brings his people together as one he is remaking his world to be good again, as it was in the beginning. That pretty much all the pictures of God’s people in the New Testament are corporate: body, bride, temple, house, city. One of each, folks! That, as Paul tells the Romans, ‘in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.’ (Rom. 12.5). That it is the highest of privileges to give of ourselves so that our brothers & sisters might know God’s blessing. That, in fact, it is one of our first priorities.

How good & pleasant would it be in our churches if we all got hold of this?! If our first priority on a Sunday, during the week, whenever, was to seek out ways to bless our fellow church members. If we took Hebrews 10.24 seriously & really did put some effort into considering how we might encourage others by spurring them on to love & good deeds. And then crack on & do it…

How good & pleasant would it be regionally & nationally if we all got a hold of this?! If churches worked together in real partnership, seeking to bless one another & help each other show people Jesus. If we had a real vision to help those getting stuck into areas where there’s not much opportunity to hear the gospel. If we worked for real partnership that enabled us to show how Jesus brings people together in one people…

How good & pleasant would it be in our communities if we all got hold of this?! If people around us saw us living radically corporate lives together as one. If we actually lived out our oneness  in Christ for all around us to see. If people around really were shocked by how much we loved one another, day to day, in the real world…

That might make an impact, might it? Jesus, for one, reckoned it might (John 13.34-35)…

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