I have learned a lot in the last year. I have gained insights into my own thought processes and tendencies. I have engaged in eye-opening conversations, both productive and frustrating. I have viewed some vivid illustrations of the failures of our society, and witnessed the widespread perversion of sin in an obvious boldness that is not always so apparent when we are wrapped up in our daily lives. Yet, the lesson I have come to learn on a deeply personal level is the importance of community. I have always loved going to church and valued my friendships there, but I cannot remember truly feeling the necessity of that community to such a degree before.
We live in a country that traditionally values independence and self-sufficiency, and I have a personality that magnifies these ideals. Consequently, my initial reaction to distress or turmoil in my life is often to internalize, independently process, and then share my fully formed thoughts and neatly expressed emotions through an academic or clinical lens, but this neglects the reality that I exist as part of a larger body or community. A community that was designed to live life together; to rally around each other in both joy and sorrow.
Sitting in sorrow together is the part that usually trips us up. “Modern Christianity does not allow time for lamenting anymore,” says Rev. Paul Koch on this week’s episode of Ringside. “I think in our culture, people get uncomfortable with people mourning and grieving,” chimed in Rev. Ross Engel. As Christians, we are uniquely positioned to understand, support, and encourage one another in a way the rest of the world is not. “Point to the comfort we have in the Beatitudes, ‘blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,’” says Ross. “In this life you are going to mourn, and that’s okay…Your mourning may never end on this side of heaven, but one day you will be comforted in full, and receive back what you have lost.”
Saint Paul tells us in Romans 5 that “…we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Suffering is not outside the work of God, and can actually lead to some wonderful things. “We call the Friday of our Lord’s horrific suffering and death ‘good.’ This is his great work, and that should bring great comfort to us,” reminds Paul, “Suffering doesn’t mean that you’re cut off, but rather, it’s where faith itself is strengthened and clings to God. Faith does it’s thing most profoundly in suffering.” So often though, we need to hear this assurance spoken by someone else.
You can find anyone to celebrate with you when life is good. It takes a special bond for someone to come alongside you in your suffering. And only a brother or sister in Christ can both allow you to mourn and simultaneously encourage you with the promises God has given us. It is a great comfort to not only lay my burdens at the foot of the cross, but also on the people sitting around me in worship. To receive their care, concern, and encouragement is both a source of strength and reassurance. We grow closer to each other and deeper in our faith when we allow our brothers and sisters to stand alongside us in our battles. We are not meant to live life alone. We are simply better together.
This article is a brief examination of the “metaphorical and theological rugby match” that was this week’s episode of Ringside Preachers. Listen to Rev. Joel Hess, Rev. Paul Koch, Rev. Ross Engel, and Tyler the Intern as they duke it out over the merits of Rush Limbaugh, when it is proper to render your garments, tips for raising a man’s man, and more on the full Ringside Preachers episode, “Limbaugh, Handshakes, and Jesus.”
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