Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Staying with the Herd

We love to watch the DVD series “Earth” and “Life”. Have you seen those? If you haven’t, you should. They are an amazing testimony to our infinitely creative Maker. I had no idea some of these creatures even existed. And, the way God made them to survive their specific environments…well, it is simply awesome. Learning about the diversity and complexity of the universe (at least the part we know about) humbles me. It makes me look small and God look really big.

Though the millions of animal species are so very different, there is one thing they have in common: danger. Almost every animal has a predator. My kids and I have learned to squint and prepare for the worst when we see a baby animal who stumbles away from its mother. We know this spells disaster. Likely, this little guy is in for a terrible surprise. Most animals are made for their packs. They need to stay with their herds. This is how they survive. It isn’t just the baby animals, either. Going it alone just isn’t smart. So it is with the Christian life.

If we want to survive, we need to stick together. Like the rest of the animal kingdom, we humans have a predator. He is just waiting for someone to devour. When we separate ourselves from other Christians, suddenly we find ourselves in the crosshairs. Can Satan take away our salvation? No. But, mark my words, he can take away everything else unless God says “no”. Let’s put it this way: He will do his level best to destroy us. He can steal our relationships, our witness, our effectiveness for Christ, our motivation, our passion, our joy, our peace, and our hope. He can make our life on this earth a wasteland. What could bring him more pleasure? If he cannot get our souls, he takes aim at the rest of our earthly life. Nothing is off limits. If we want to protect ourselves, we need to stay in the herd.

What does “staying in the herd” actually look like? Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” This passage is typically used to advocate church membership and attendance. I’m not disagreeing with that. But, I think it means much, much more. This is especially true if going to church means getting up on Sunday morning, putting on our best clothes, putting on our best self, greeting one another with a “hello, how are you?” without giving an honest answer, and arguing with our family all the way home. I know I’m not the only one who has occasionally experienced this kind of “church”.

I think the writer of Hebrews knew a little about human nature, the fallen world, and God’s call to holiness. I think he knew what a challenge it would be to engage the enemy alone. I don’t believe he meant that walking into a church building and hearing a sermon would be enough. I think when he said, “don’t give up meeting together”, he implied our need for close relationship with other believers—through thick and thin. Look at the context. Read all of Hebrews 10. The writer points out that sacrifice is no longer the way to atone for sin since Jesus has become the living sacrifice to pay for it once and for all. But, while we still live in a sinful world, we need to remind each other to hold tight to the hope we confess (v. 23), we need encouragement to spur us on toward love and good deeds (v. 24), we need to stand side by side as we face persecution (v. 32-34), and we need to remember the way we first came to faith so that we can confidently persevere (v. 32-39).

This “herd mentality” is a concept I’m warming up to as I mature in my walk with Christ. I imagine I’m not alone. Group living is, quite honestly, exhausting. Just keeping up with the life of the family who lives under my roof is complicated. Why in the world would I want to invest myself in other people and their problems and open up myself, my family, and my internal life to public scrutiny? Because God says I need it. And, I am seeing the truth in that, especially as I press on to really put Christ in the center of what I do…especially as I aim to make my perspective an eternal one. The enemy HATES it. If I want to do anything for Christ that is of consequence, I need my Christian brothers and sisters.

Making the decision to join a church family is step one. No church is perfect. But, church can consistently feed you with Truth, and it can connect you with like-minded individuals and families who are on the same journey. Step two is developing deep and lasting friendships with a select few with whom you are totally honest about your life. In my opinion, this is where protection from the enemy is to be found. I’m not necessarily talking about an “accountability partner” who questions you constantly about whether or not you’ve had your quiet time (though, that is not an entirely bad idea). I’m talking about people who know all of your stuff and love you anyway. I’m talking about people you can watch football with, worship with, throw birthday parties with, and pray with. I’m talking about people you admit your mistakes to. People you allow to see you mess up—big time. People you can call when you don’t have it all together. People who won’t let you make a big decision you’ll later regret. People who won’t let you give up on your marriage and other commitments. People who don’t want to see you compromise and people who don’t want to see you hurt. People who will give you Scripture when you need encouragement and people who will pray earnestly when the last thing you want to hear is Scripture. People who know WHAT you believe and WHOM you believe. People who won’t let you leave the herd. People who genuinely care to see God finish the good work he began in you.

Hebrews 10:25 says that we need to meet with these kinds of friends “all the more as we see the Day approaching.” I believe that God is calling us to increasingly deeper relationships with other Christians because Satan knows his time is short (Revelation 12:12). There are certainly challenges that come with investing in a “herd”. It takes time, it can be painful. But, there is no other way to protect ourselves. We need encouragement so that we can persevere.

I am so grateful for the “herd” God has given Bryan and me. So much has happened in my herd in the last few weeks that I can’t even begin to list it here. It makes me tired. But, it also inspires me. The leaders of our herd are not spring chickens any more. We may be slow learners, but we are grabbing hold of God’s promise to protect us when we stick together. We are learning to fight for each other in prayer, encourage one another, laugh with one another, and practically help one another. I am witnessing victories—big ones and little ones—as we deepen our ability to be real with each other, especially amongst the men.

Men, I’m going to call you out, here. I think it is unnatural in some respects for you to engage the herd. After all, some animal species don’t tolerate more than one male. Hippos, for example. I think one of the “Life” DVD’s shows hippo males fighting for the rights to all of the other females. The one that loses out has to leave the vicinity. Sorry, dude, find some other hippo group to conquer and rule! Hear me: I’m not being trite or condescending. Bryan reminds me all the time, “Sarah, I’m not a woman.” And, I’ve gotta tell you, I’m relieved. What I’m saying is that with respect to our need for each other, God does not discriminate. I think men and women alike need the encouragement of friends. And, men, if you want to be the leaders I know you desire to be, you can’t do it alone. It is too hard. I’ll plead with you on behalf of the wives I know…Please reach out to each other! Please don’t let each other go! Please don’t forsake meeting together! Please fight for each other’s families! Please don’t let the enemy corner your friends!

Brother, sister: Have you decided that being part of the herd is just too vulnerable? Have you decided it is too much trouble? Have you forsaken the safety of the herd? If so, you are in the crosshairs of the enemy. Going it alone just isn’t smart. Find a friend or two who knows WHAT you believe and WHOM you believe, and dive into a deep, real, and lasting friendship. Meet together often. There is safety in numbers.


Unknown said...

Yes! Love this truth and Yes! was able to comment. Mom

Shelly C said...

just wanted to tell you how grateful I am that God has allowed us to be part of the herd together. You bless me more than you could ever know. Love you my sweet precious sister.