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IN THE CARPENTER’S WORKSHOP: Together

The together principle is a foundation of strength and hope for the future. Countries, organizations, churches and families, among other groups, have seen this principle hold true.

For Christians, it is the knowing that we are all in this together which creates unity and a common purpose for the cause of Christ. It stands against all difficulty and darkness and brings joy and light. Jesus starts it when he asks his disciples to follow him.

Together, the 12 form a formidable group against which nothing in heaven or on earth can stand. Whenever one or two go off on their own, we know they are going to cause trouble for themselves and the group. 

James and John want to call down fire from heaven on people in a Samaritan village who will not receive Jesus. 

Our Lord rebukes them, and they resume their journey together. Peter does not want Jesus to die for his sins. Jesus says, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” Peter rejoins the group and later becomes perhaps the most influential apostle of them all. Judas leaves the group and betrays Jesus. 

He is miserable and alone and takes his own life. Over the years, the church has seen individuals insist on their own way, and the group suffers needlessly. Sometimes there are no reasons, only perceived excuses.

One balmy day in the South Pacific, a navy ship spied smoke coming from one of three huts on an uncharted island. Upon arriving at the shore they were met by a shipwreck survivor. He said, “I’m so glad you’re here! I’ve been alone on this island for more than five years!” The captain replied, “If you’re all alone on the island why do I see THREE huts.” The survivor said, “Oh. Well, I live in one, and go to church in another.” “What about the THIRD hut?” asked the captain. “That’s where I USED to go to church.” Granted, church divisions sometimes spawn other churches. 

People are different, and worship and serve in various ways. But the together principle is still God’s plan for us. Unity, hammering things out between committed people who love God and each other, is the best way. Jesus said, “If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” ~ Mark 3:24-25. 

The good thing about the church which is in unity is that there is never anyone pulling the load alone. We must count on others and join with them, and never think we are by ourselves. A guy drives into a ditch, but luckily, a farmer is there to help. He hitches his horse, Buddy, up to the car and yells, “Pull, Nellie, pull!” Buddy doesn’t move. “Pull, Buster, pull!” Buddy doesn’t budge. “Pull, Coco, pull!” Nothing. Then the farmer says, “Pull, Buddy, pull!” And the horse drags the car out of the ditch. Curious, the motorist asks the farmer why he kept calling his horse by the wrong name. 

“Buddy’s blind,” said the farmer. “And if he thought he was the only one pulling, he wouldn’t even try.” Sometimes we can be blind like Buddy. We cannot see the whole situation. We only see part of the picture. The good thing is that the farmer doesn’t have to pull anything over on us. We do have brothers and sisters who pull alongside us. For every task, partnership is better. It is human nature to be individualistic. We want our own way. We think we know more than God. Only after they chose it did Adam and Eve find out that going their own way meant destruction. We have the benefit of history on our side. 

Generations of Christians have traveled together to find comfort and strength in the Lord’s army. Jesus says, “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Funny thing about a yoke. There is no such thing as an individual yoke. 

Two animals are always yoked together to pull the load! Twenty dogs are yoked together to pull a dogsled through the Alaskan snow. Conestoga wagons had teams of oxen, mules or horses. Even Santa has eight tiny reindeer! The very next time, dear reader, you feel called to go off on a tangent by yourself, remember this. Together is better. Together is easier.  

When Jesus describes worship as a place where two or more gather and agree, he says he will be there. I have never seen our country and world so divided as it is now. It comes, I will venture, from individuals or groups who insist on their own way even at the expense of others. Love does not insist on its own way, the scripture says. It does not dishonor others. It is not easily angered. When our country and world begin to listen to the church, we will be on the road to healing. And as the church continues to listen to God, we will always walk forward in confidence and love. Together.