Behold how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity! Psalm 133:1
At least every other year, we travel to see relatives in a small, Southern beach town. Before I even reach, my mind settles on the sound of the ocean, the first steps onto the hot, dry sand, the heat lifting as we walk closer to the muddy shore. I can hear the white birds cawing from above the crashing waves. The breeze against my skin will be a buffer to the discomfort of the sun.
My mind always goes first to the beach. Though I daydream about sitting beneath the blue umbrellas for rent in a folding chair, reading a book, that’s never how reality unfolds. Instead I’ll build leaning sandcastles, eat Cheetos instead of meals, hold hands of squealing children so they aren’t overtaken while jumping the incoming waves. My aunt will warn us not to go too far out because of the recent shark sightings. It will stay in the back of my mind even though I would never go far out anyway. Near the shore, someone will get a mouthful of the salty Atlantic unwillingly.
But to see my relatives we will have to leave the beach and drive down the dirt roads into their humble community. Many of them living side by side in the same place for years, in a small town where there is little industry. My kids will love it if chickens are clucking around in a relatives’ yard—again.
I’m always amazed at the vibrant, giving spirit in my relatives’ way of life. I’ve never seen a person go without. I don’t think it would settle well. It just isn’t in their blood. Everyone comes together. Some give more out of their ability. Others give what they can. Children are communally cared for. Everyone is rich.
If I could photograph that kind of love and distribute it, I think I may have a picture of the Biblical love and unity written about in Psalm 133 or in Acts 2. I think what we often consider to be a burden, sacrificing our comfort to provide comfort to others, is supposed to be in our blood, if we have been given everything by Christ. It is our new way of life, and it is a beautiful image.
Some beautiful pictures:
- Communal prayer: When someone lays a hand on my head to pray for me, that is one of the best gifts. If I can do it for someone else, it is just as rewarding. A man who’s name we will never know, came to pray for my husband. He said God told him to pray for our finances. That was like water washing over our faces on a blistering hot day.
- Love your neighbor as yourself: We had a church offer to help us buy a car after ours was totaled by an auto transport truck and the business refused to pay. We were already working to figure out how the kids and I would drop John off in the morning and I would trudge through traffic to get to work on the other side of town. We had used up the little money we had on the old Volvo that was now unsalvageable. “We can make it work,” I said. “We don’t want you to have to do that,” the church said.
- Children are a blessing: Love, love, love when Jesus corrects the disciples who are keeping the kids away from him because they feel he is busy with more important things, and Jesus says, “Let the children come.” When hands are lifted in a congregation in commitment to helping raise a new little one, isn’t that beautiful? Wouldn’t it be more beautiful if we, the church, really did commit to being that involved in the life of each other that our children were loved on and ministered to by so many? And what if every new child was a blessing? Number 1 or number 12, high functioning, low functioning, rebelling, excelling?
Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. Never be wise in your own sight.” John 13:35
So, why did Paul have to write these things in Romans 12?
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud but be willing to associate with
people of low position. Do not be conceited.”
“Let love be genuine… Love one another with brotherly affection…”
“Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality…”
Why do we still need to hear these things today? Possibly because we grow weary in doing good, and no longer delight in it.
Here’s the full verse in Romans 12:9
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
Hold fast. Remember the beauty of that unity and love, from Christ to us, from us to the saints.
Ashley Soden is a writer in Katy, TX. She loves learning more about God, people, and the world. When she's not making lattes at Starbucks or writing a book, she's enjoying life with her husband of 13 years and her three busy children.