Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote his acclaimed Life Together in 1939. This classic work on the family of God opens citing David’s Psalm of ascent, Psalm 133, “Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” (Ps. 133:1). Psalms 120-134 are called “psalms of ascent” because they are believed to have been sung in lower to higher tones and by the Jews as they “ascended” the Temple steps during their thrice annual festivals.
Bonhoeffer states that when Christians come together in fellowship they do not do so directly. “[Christ] stands between me and others,” he writes. What He means is that as “Christ’s love compels us” (2 Cor. 5:14) we reach out to our brother or sister – through Christ – and they receive – through Christ. Christ is the bond, the conduit, the channel or frequency through which transmission and reception travel. All Christian unity is through Christ.
Paul writes, “…through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit” (Eph. 2:18) and John summarizes, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.” (1 John 1:3). Christ is the bond that causes us “to dwell together in unity.”
This being the case we find unity and fellowship is possible when experiencing “Life Apart” as well as “Life Together.” The Spirit of Christ, like the Word of God, knows no bounds.
I was delighted and surprised to experience this in a unique new way this past Sunday as our church family shared together online in the Lord’s Supper. It got me thinking how across space we are united in Christ, and likewise how across time we are also united. We share in “the communion of the saints ” taking and sharing together as equally with those 1st century brothers gathered around an upper room meal in Palestine … Jesus Christ Himself the officiate!
We celebrate together and we suffer together. “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26). Only Christ now knows the total sum of our celebration… our suffering. Paul caught a glimpse of this truth. He saw the great privilege he had in suffering his portion of it. “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (Col. 1:24). He saw too the reward there would be “there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day…” and for you also among “….all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8).
It is a different world today, and will be for long after the pandemic has ended, but Jesus Christ remains True, holding all things together… take heart… press on…