Life together is better.
Life together is also — frequently – tougher.
No one, of course, knew this better than Jesus, and living out these two sides of the life-together coin seemed to be the prompt for some of His most stunning words. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35) Then, in His prayer in John 17, these perhaps even more stunning words: “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Seems like this life together thing is kind of a big deal to Jesus.
And no small challenge for his disciples.
At first glance, they appeared to have much in common – twelve Jewish men from the same generation, who lived within a hundred miles of each other. But their differences ran deep. Their accents revealed urban and rural upbringings. Their politics revealed what they saw as the right way to relate to Rome. Their vocations revealed their social standing. The gospels find them at times confused (feeding the 5000); competitive (“who’s the greatest”); and conflicted (“I never knew the man”).
More often, it seems, on the “tougher” rather than “better” side of the life-together coin.
Yet, in ways that remain remarkable to this day, they came together in the midst of plenty of tougher, and the book of Acts records a take-your-breath-away unity, a togetherness that was fostered by these very same leaders. Which is another way of saying, if it’s possible for them, it’s possible for us.
The New Testament gives us incredible pictures of what life together looks like, and how it’s built. These pictures will help us as a community see the better, so we work through the tougher. Because life together doesn’t just matter to Jesus.
It’s the answer to His prayers.