One of the most over-used and unfulfilled phrases in the church today has got to be Doing life together.
It’s probably most applied to describing small groups in the church, where we talk about coming together to do life together. In some groups, that sentiment is lived out to some degree, as the participants of the group over time become close friends who show genuine love and care for each other.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen in a lot of small groups, who may meet for years but the people don’t really “do life together,” they just have a Bible study that doesn’t seem to have much transformational affect in their lives.
I think the phrase feels a little worn out because it’s often used but not nearly as often experienced. Instead, we give sway to the world view of thinking about people in terms or “winners” and “losers.” You’ll even hear some church leaders — and MANY business people and positive-thinking gurus influential in the church — talk about being a “winner” and people who are “losers”.
Herbert G. Hand did an effective job contrasting this desire to “win” against an attitude of doing life together in the story he recorded in the Imitating Jesus Series:
- In the Philippines, deep in the dense rain forest, lives a primitive people, known as the Agta Negrito. They are hunters-gatherers who wear loincloths and little else.
Several years ago a missionary family who was working among them set up a croquet game in their front yard. Before long several of their Agta Negrito neighbors curiously gathered to watch them. Soon they wanted to play, too.
The missionaries explained the game and gave each of them a mallet and a ball. Halfway into the game, one of the natives’ croquet balls landed next to another’s. The missionary excitedly explained one of the more aggressive rules: You can put your foot on your ball and smack it hard with the mallet, causing your opponent’s ball to go flying far away.
The native understood what he was saying, but couldn’t comprehend why anyone would want to do it. He said, “Why would I want to knock his ball out of the court?”
The missionary replied, “So you will be the one to win!”
The native shook his head in bewilderment. You see, competition and winning is not important in hunting and gathering societies. People survive — not by competing — but by working together.
The game continued, but no one followed the missionaries’ advice. When the first player successfully got through all the wickets, he did not see himself as the victor. For him the game wasn’t over. He went back and gave aid and advice and encouragement to the others. Finally, when the last wicket was played by the last player, they all shouted happily, “We won! We won!”
We talk about “doing life together” because that’s God’s intent for us — as His family, knit together as one body, we would support and walk with one another through life. The stronger would aid the weaker, the wealthier would help the poor, the wise would provide counsel and servant leadership, and everyone would put their shoulders to the task of bearing one another’s burdens:
“Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace,” Ephesians 4:3.
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love,” Ephesians 4:16.
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important,” Galatians 6:2-3.
The idea for the church is to truly do life together, such as demonstrated in the church as recorded in the book of Acts, and not to selfishly pursue personally being a “winner” at the expense of others being “losers.” We’re prone to think of ourselves as being so fine and sophisticated, yet it’s more primitive societies such as the Agta Negrito who better understand the more biblical model of “doing life together.”
If most of the people in our churches are not discipled, most are biblically illiterate, many are lonely, some experiencing hunger, and several feeling overwhelmed — how is that doing life together?
How do you live? Are you doing life together with your brothers and sisters in Christ, or do you just meet to study the Bible — you know, that book that teaches us about doing life together!
This article about doing life together originally appeared here, and is used by permission.