” love one another deeply, from the heart ” I Peter 1:22
It was Sunday morning and we had been home from Haiti less than 48 hours. Michael and I had discussed at length whether or not we should attempt to take our newly formed family to church so soon. Not only did we want to be sensitive to our new daughter’s emotional state during a time of tremendous adjustment, but we also were genuinely overwhelmed by the prospect of feeding, clothing and washing five children before time to leave for church at 8:45am.
Could we do it? Should we do it?
Finally, we decided that if we kept the girls protectively in our arms a church service would be far less traumatic than our head long dash through the airport had been. We also wanted to share the joy of their homecoming with our church family. We decided to go for it.
That Sunday morning was chaos and my sister provided an extra set of arms to fill in the gaps and if she had not been with us, I seriously doubt we would have actually made it to church. Despite our best efforts, we were late. We entered the back of the sanctuary to find the congregation standing as the choir finished leading them in the first song of worship and we began our descent down the aisle to our seats as the last notes were fading away. Claudine was in Michael’s arms, and Roseline was in mine. My sister carried Jeremiah as our older two children, Christopher and Meghan, filed in with us.
At that moment, several members of the choir spotted us and began clapping and cheering. The celebration spread to the congregation as the place erupted in applause and shouts of praise and thanksgiving. The band joined in and all around us, there was a symphony of rejoicing.
My pastor left his place at the front of the congregation and met us in the aisle. He hugged us in greeting and beaming said to Claudine, “We prayed for you.”
In the middle of it all, I looked at Claudine to see if the commotion was frightening her but I found her face glowing with surprise, joy and pleasure. Somehow, she knew it was all for her. It was a beautiful moment of promises fulfilled, and prayers answered.
There was another beauty however, that shone above all the rest: The beauty of a church living out the mandate to be the Body of Christ. Romans 12 :15 tells the church to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We were so honored to be in the middle of God’s people as they walked in obedience to that command. Some of the faces that filled the auditorium that morning were as familiar to me as my own family, others were virtual strangers but they all were rejoicing with us that our daughters, their daughters, had come home at last.
Romans 12: 4- 10 says:
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
That morning, my church family was fulfilling that command. It was not the first time they were faithful to be the hands, feet and mouthpiece of Christ to me. In the darkest days of our adoption journey when I felt I absolutely could not withstand the grief and longing for my daughters, God used a hand full of women in our church to reach out to me. Without fail one of these women would come to me when my struggle was at its worst, and say, “God has had you on my mind constantly. The burden never leaves. I am praying for you.”
Once, when I was at a particularly low place this group of women surrounded me after a prayer service to pray for me. I sat in a chair while some knelt in front of me, others beside me, and some behind me. They laid their hands on me and prayed. I remember one friend rubbing my back, while another stroked my hair in comfort as they called down the strength of Heaven upon me and implored the Deliverer on behalf of my daughters.
The Body of Christ.
They had mourned with us, prayed with us, and labored with us to bring our babies home and that Sunday morning when we presented our daughters to them for the first time, they rejoiced with us as well. As I looked around that cheering sanctuary, I knew I was privileged to witness just a little bit of Heaven for a moment. A sea of people from every possible background surrounded us. Wealthy and poor. Old and young. Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American.
And they were all, together, praising God for His goodness and mighty deliverance.
I have been thinking a lot about the Body of Christ lately and yesterday, over lunch, one of my best friends and I were discussing it. I could not help but notice the occasional stares of the people around us as they observed this odd pair settling into intimate conversation in the restaurant. She is an African American; I am Caucasian. Her hair is dark and curly; Mine is blonde and spiky. She is from Baltimore; I have never lived outside the South.
But God says we are sisters and that is what unites us.
Together, over our meal we began to dream about what the world would look like if God’s people had taken seriously the Lord’s last, sweeping command to his people, the command that he said, summed up all others.
Love each other.
Preaching the Word of God, dividing the Scriptures, exhorting one another to holiness, assembling to offer praises to God…all of these things are good and right but according to Christ, they are not what is most important. Jesus was ready to return to the Father. The hour of his death, burial, and resurrection was drawing near and he had one last opportunity to reinforce one lesson. What did he do with that moment? He wrapped himself in a towel, and knelt to wash the dirty feet of his disciples one by one and as he did he said,
“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.” John 13:34 -35 (The Message)
Can you picture it? The church would lead the way in feeding the hungry and clothing the poor. Unity, not division, would reign. The local congregation would be the example to all in matters of racial reconciliation.
Can you envision it?
What if we began today?