We’ve all seen the commercials. A happy family with smiles on their face having a wonderful time together.
Everything is perfect.
Everyone is happy.
No one is arguing. No one wants to be somewhere else, doing something else, with someone else…
It looks so easy.
So why did our family never work that way? Raising three active kids all playing sports with active social lives, the calendar was full. We always tried to set aside one evening for ‘Family Night’ where we would do something together.
It never looked like the commercials.
We had endless ‘discussions’ about which night to set aside, which activity to do together, which game to play, which snack to eat… Five people, five different opinions, five different levels of frustration. So many ‘discussions’ that sometimes it honestly felt easier to just give up and let everybody do their own thing.
Instinctively, as the mom, I knew that the struggle was important. That somehow persevering to make time and space for each other mattered. That arguments resolved were better than not communicating at all.
Now with the benefit of time and maturity I’m glad that our adult children still enjoy being together, and actively work to make it happen. While there are many factors in that journey, I believe the words and example of Jesus Christ are pivotal in modelling the attitudes that are required to really be ‘better together’.
What its really going to take to be better together?
Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist.
Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?”
Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.”
Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.”
Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!”
Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” John 13:1-16
Jesus cut through all the competition, self-interest, and laziness of his disciples by taking up a towel and washing their dirty feet—demonstrating his love, and then calling them to do just as he had done.
Later that evening Jesus summarizes for his disciples:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:34
Love modelled by humility.
Love modelled by service.
Love modelled by sacrifice—even to death.
Ultimately ‘Better Together’ only works when each one chooses to follow this path.
5 Ways to Follow this Path
Here’s some ways this is worked out in the nitty gritty of life.
1. By following Jesus’ example and choosing to serve.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. Galatians 5:13
2. By not seeking centre stage, but humbly cheering others on.
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10
3. By being patient, kind and forgiving, (even when a person’s uniqueness and personality are really irritating!)
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossian 3:12-13
4. By imagining walking in their shoes, and then companioning them in their walking.
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2
5. By speaking hope and courage along the way.
Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing 1 Thessalonians 5:11
Alone or Together?
Realistically, the journey to ‘better together’ is challenging, and the temptation is to give up.
Whether in family, in church community, in ministry teams, in multi-agency partnership or whatever the ‘together’ challenge that you’re facing, there will come the temptation to go it alone. Its simple, easy, and less costly.
If you’re feeling that way, let me leave you with Paul’s words to the Corinthian church, who were also struggling with the whole idea of ‘better together’.
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 1 Corinthians 12:24b-27
God has put us together. We really are better together.
Lorna Johnston is the Diaspora Ministries Leader at Outreach Canada. She leads two national teams--Loving Muslims Together (LMT) and Simply Mobilizing Canada (SMC). She works with teams of diverse and experienced leaders and ministries across Canada to alert and activate the church in Canada to the changing opportunities to engage God's mission right here in Canada.