WHY WE NEED ONE ANOTHER
From time to time I like to browse on the Internet, and one of the things I sometimes look at is websites of Worldwide Church of God congregations around the world. I quite like the Canadian WCG site - it's well developed with good ideas and resources, probably because the members are scattered across such a vast country. They even have a virtual Feast site!
One particular webpage I've looked at is for the Peterborough and Kingston, Ontario congregations. The reason it's of interest to me is that those congregations are pastored by someone who used to be my minister at one of the best and most memorable times for me in the WCG. And on the website the motto of those congregations is "one anothering." "One anothering" - because they realise that looking after one another is a foundation for a healthy, vibrant and growing church.
So in this article I'd like to consider three reasons why we need one another - and they're really things that I value personally about the church.
Knowing one another helps us avoid temptations and distractions from the world
It helps us stay close to God. When we meet with other Christians it helps us keep our minds focused on what is important. But when we don't mix with Christians so much we can find ourselves being influenced by other things, ever so subtly at first but then increasingly. It becomes that much harder to maintain moral standards, and we start being drawn into things we wouldn't previously have entertained. Our prayer life can suffer. This is why we're encouraged not to forsake assembling together. And I'm sure we're all familiar with I Corinthians 15:33, which says that bad company corrupts good character.
I come from a very middle class, white background, where 80% of young people stay on at school and 80% of them go onto university. There is no big drug problem, no major poverty, no real problems with teenage pregnancy. So when I moved away from home in 1993 to university I was totally unprepared. From a relatively quiet life in rural North Bedfordshire I moved to Manchester where everything was tolerated and everything was available.
Manchester had the second highest crime rate in the country - you may remember the spate of gang murders that were taking place in Moss Side at the time. Someone was shot just down the street from where I lived. Drugs were also freely available with the club culture - I remember one incident where they were giving out fruit injected with drugs! Alcohol was flowing - at 80p or £1 a pint in the student bars. People had freedom for the first time, but so many of them didn't realise that with freedom comes responsibility.
Now I actually really enjoyed my time in Manchester - it has many good points too, and in some ways I preferred it to where I grew up and to London where I live now. But the point is I was very lucky. In fact I believe God blessed me with the best place I could have gone to university at that time in the WCG in Britain. There were seven of us from church all studying in Manchester at once. We became good friends and used to do things together, sometimes even in the week as well as at weekends. And it helped me to avoid being pulled into the worst excesses of student life. I'm not saying I totally cut myself off but it just helped me keep a focus. I looked forward to going to church.
I remember one incident where I had been invited to a party - I think it was the 21st birthday of one of my flatmate's friends. I've never been a great one for parties, but on this occasion I thought I'd go. But then I was told that we had to bring an item of pornography, which obviously changed my attitude to that party! What happened was that I was invited by one of my friends from church to do something else, which made it much easier to make excuses for not going to the party after all than it would have been if I had been at home.
So knowing one another really does help us avoid temptations and distractions.
Knowing one another gives us support and encouragement, particularly in difficult times
God designed us so that people need people. We need one another to help experience life and emotions, to help us see different points of view, and to help us understand ourselves. And we especially need one another to help us through difficult times. For Christians God has designed something extra special.
I'm sure we've all heard the song that says, "I'll get by with a little help from my friends." Being single I really appreciate the friends I have in the church. It helps avoid loneliness and they're always there if you need someone to talk to. It's one of the reasons I look forward to coming to church. Amongst all the people in the church there's often someone who's been through the same problem before. And with Christian friends we can be accepted in a non-judgemental way. We can be accepted for who we are - not made to feel outcasts if we don't "fit in" with some ill-defined standard to be in the "in crowd." That's something else I really value.
But the most special thing of all about Christians helping us through our problems is that they have the Holy Spirit. They have Jesus Christ living in them to help us! People sometimes wonder where God is when they see suffering. But the answer is he's in Christians. I've been reading "The Jesus I Never Knew" by Philip Yancey, which contains many interesting insights. On p231 he says, "'Where is God when it hurts?' I have often asked. The answer is another question, 'Where is the church when it hurts?'"
Knowing one another helps us get to know God better and learn what love is
This moves us a step further. With Christ living in each person, sharing and supporting and loving, we start to see his unconditional love in action. I John 4:7-8 and 11-12 says, "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No-one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us."
Meeting together and sharing with other Christians in whom God dwells helps us get to know him better. It helps us discern right and wrong. It helps us experience his support, peace and help through trials. And it helps us experience his perfect love that fills the whole universe - because he is love. Knowing one another in the church truly is wonderful.
About five years ago when I was nearing the end of my university course and deciding which career path I would embark upon, I made a decision. I decided that I wouldn't spend my working life in a research laboratory, which is a relatively safe, sheltered environment. Instead I chose an option which for me was far more difficult. I took a risk, the gamble of going into the real world where relationships and people are important. A world where I had to overcome my shyness and take the risk of the pain of emotions and hurt that come from human relationships. But I made that decision for a very important reason. I wanted to get to know people. I wanted to learn everything that comes from knowing people, and to be open to the joy it can bring.
Because life is about relationships. The church is about relationships. And God is about relationships.
So let's really value the relationships we have in the church. Let's work to help one another, support one another, keep one another on the right track and build one another up. Let's share God's love with one another more and more. And when we do that we get to know him even better everyday.
© Simon Williams, 2001