“Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1)
Marriage and change go together, somewhat like fries and ketchup; you just can’t have one without the other. After getting married, I moved from Delhi to Goa; big change. Apart from the fact that even dry and crispy leaves fly in slow motion across the road, the biggest change was adjusting to life without the comfort of familiar people. Standing in church every Sunday, I’d miss the church I’d left behind. Living around new people who spoke a different language, I’d long to effortlessly converse with my friends. I missed my community.
Things began to change when I picked up the book Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I’d read the book while in seminary and mostly forgotten what it was about. While talking about the value of Christian fellowship, Bonhoeffer writes:
It is true, of course, that what is an unspeakable gift of God for the lonely individual is easily disregarded and trodden underfoot by those who have the gift every day. It is easily forgotten that the fellowship of Christian brethren is a gift of grace, a gift of the Kingdom of God that any day may be taken from us, that the time that still separates us from utter loneliness may be brief indeed. Therefore, let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren. (p. 20)
Thank God on his knees! Bonhoeffer may have been talking about me when he referred to people who disregard the value of Christian fellowship. I had failed to notice my false sense of entitlement to a community shaped exactly per my demands. The thought of fellow Christians longing to worship God in community had not crossed my mind. Instead, here I was sulking because things weren’t exactly to my liking. If only I could change… then I could be thankful for my new church.
However, the very fact that we have a community with whom we can worship God in unity is a privilege. Our unity does not stem from speaking the same language or being from a similar economic class, but through Jesus Christ. This unity is going to endure; we are going to be spending eternity together!
Finding fault with people around us comes naturally to us; be it family, friends, or colleagues. Often, our liking for people increases when we are away from them and recognise the value their presence added to our lives. Wouldn’t it be tragic if we always had to move away from people before we appreciated them? Instead, we can choose to be grateful to God for the people He has currently placed in our lives. Once we are able to freely accept people, it becomes easy to build relationships with them.
Today, I have friends in my neighbourhood because I finally made the effort to get to know the women living around me. I am consciously thankful to God for giving me the privilege of worshipping Him with others, and have quit Mission Change-People-To-My-Liking. Unsurprisingly, my relationships with people at church are improving too.
Maybe you find yourself in a new community quite unlike what you’ve been used to. Missing what you’ve left behind is normal, but don’t forget to thank God for where He has placed you.
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