Bearing with One Another
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14
Over the years at different times, I’ve studied sheep and shepherding. One of the things that I found most interesting was something called the “flight zone.” Sheep by nature are communal. They want to be in and among the flock. Sheep are also very skiddish and easily given over to fear. A sheep’s ability to be closer to other sheep, the size of his flight zone, is directly related to how safe and secure they feel. If a sheep feels pending danger it will keep more distance between itself and other sheep. If a sheep feels safe it will be closer and allow other sheep to come closer to it.
This reality unfolds in the Church, among God’s Sheep. We being the sheep are willing to draw close when we feel safe, but want greater distance when there is uncertainty or looming danger. This takes many forms. The person who is facing great hardship is scared to let others in on the difficulty because they are not sure how things will go. The person who has suffered betrayal and loss will have a harder time connecting to new people fearing they might hurt or leave them as well. The group that is dealing with a major change or turn over may find it harder to connect with existing members and new people might find it hard because no one knows exactly what this is going to look like. This describes the great difficulty that we have in the Church to foster a deep sense of community. We are fearful to draw near.
We need hope that goes beyond ourselves. We need hope that is not based on clichés designed just to make us feel better. We need hope that is not rooted in promises that we cannot keep. This is why the foundation of the Church is Christ and faith in Him. He offers us assurances that are true and dependable. He is willing to tell us that things will not always be easy or pleasant. He tells us that we will face hardship and loss. That we will not always see what is before us. But all of these things lose their power over us as we hear Christ’s words: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Our confidence need not rest on other sheep and their cleverness, strength, or endurance. Our hope need not set itself up on our foresight, wisdom, or personalities. We can stand firm with Christ because when the going got tough, He died for us. We can hold fast to Christ because when danger came at us, He sacrificed Himself. We can go where He leads us because after He gave up His life, He took it back again. “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:17-18)
What a blessed assurance! The true Shepherd of this Church is not going anywhere. The true Shepherd of this Church has authority and power to overcome anything looming in the distance. He can hold us fast. So let us draw near to Him and to one another. Let’s be bound together in love!