Family ties that bind
We’ve partnered with fellow Jesus-followers from many nations in numerous adventures in places where the Lordship of Jesus is not particularly encouraged, or where the red carpet in not exactly rolled out to the Church (they mostly see red).
Alexis, one of those Jesus-followers who lives in Europe, had been walking a road with another person, Ari, living in the Middle East. Ari desperately needed to be planted into a biblically based church in the region, where he could be nurtured and discipled.
Alexis called me for help, as it’s a long walk from Europe to the Middle East. It’s a much-much longer swim from where I live in the Southern parts of Africa to the Middle East. A friend of mine, Bruce, had recently been on an adventure in that part of the Middle East. I had a quick chat with him who in turn put me in touch with Nidal, who is a fellow brother-in-Christ from that region. I then gave Alexis the details of Nidal who now has contact with Ari – and the kingdom of God grows… (names have been changed to protect the participants).
This may seem all 007 fiction, but the Family of God is real (and we are world-wide). The places where the Family is not, are shrinking ever so steadily. What a privilege it is to be a part of what God is doing around the world. These are the family ties that bind.
From around the world, to around the corner.
A band of brothers
I’m a volunteer sports photographer at my son’s school. This gives me access to unobtrusively observe and capture moments of truth as they happen.
My son was competing in the high jump for his school’s inter-house athletics championship. He was in fine form. All was well until I noticed the slightest of knee malfunctions in his run-up and take-off, a niggle that seemed to go un-noticed by the onlookers. It however became clearer, as the bar was raised to ever higher heights, that all was not well in his world.
Fast forward a few jumps and the bar was now on the current record height in his age category.
The PA system boldly announced this fact to the great crowd of spectators who were witnessing history in the making. Rhythmic claps spontaneously erupted, holding aloft his name, “Luca–Luca–Luca”, but they were far away and had not picked up that my son was in pain. Would he be able to continue? Would he be able to go to heights where no-one else in his age group had gone before. Who would come to his aid?
But then something changed. Through my lens, I saw something deeply profound. A few of the other competitors had indeed noticed that a fellow brother of theirs was in difficulty. There he was, clad in his yellow team colours, crouched on the ground in a foetal position, clutching onto and compressing his knee. One by one, he was being surrounded by a red and a blue and another yellow.
Moments earlier they were competitors – now they were a band of brothers.
Some were whispering to him. A brother red gave him cold water. Another colour brother tried to fix his knee (although panel beating it would be a more accurate description). I saw what looked like an ice pack being welded to his leg. Another brother yellow just placed a hand on my son’s shoulder. Their collective ministrations, however crude, was exactly what he needed at that time.
The power of unity and compassion
The colour brothers helped him to hobble to the starting mark - the crowd now chanting and clapping ever louder, “Luca-Luca-Luca”. He stood upright, pain still etched on his face. Even though he stood on his own (for no-one else could jump for him) he was not standing alone.
A split second before he lent forward to start his run-up, I saw new determination, a new resolve on his face, defying the tread marks of tears down his cheeks. The run-up was painful, both for me to watch and for him to persevere through.
The colour brothers held their collective breath as he launched from his wonky, freshly panel-beated leg, sending him hurtling through the air, in seeming disregard for gravity.
Then, what was an eternity contained in a blink of an eye, we were in suspended animation. Right arm up and over the bar. Back arched in angular momentum. Eyes trained on the bar. Butt tucked in tight, glided over. Knees coiled at 90˚ to store energy. The slingshot flick of the feet and eventually the “Pooff” of the oversized cushion becoming the first herald to proclaim the clearing the bar and the re-writing of the history books. Were it possible to harness and store the collective energy released from the crowd of witnesses at that moment, we would not have loadshedding now.
Raising the bar together
But what does that have to do with us today? What is the significance? If you are a family member in the kingdom of God, it should mean the world. Scripture often speaks about our actions, as Jesus followers, giving society a snapshot of the heart and character of Jesus.
“But if anyone has this worlds goods (resources for sustaining life) and sees his brother and fellow believer in need, yet closes his heart of compassion against him, how can the love of God live and remain in him?” [to which I, Eugéne, add, “Good question”]. “Little children, let us not love [merely] in theory or in speech but in deed and in truth (in practice and in sincerity)” 1 John 3:17-18 (Amplified). The second part of Hebrews 10:25 suggests that the reason for the Family coming together is to encourage one another, literally to give courage to each other.
“This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his love for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves” 1 John3:16 (MSG).
If a bunch of 15-year-old boys could pick up on this, then certainly we too can raise the bar. Incidentally, the ministrations of the colour boys not only helped my son get over that bar, but it also prepared him to get over more challenging bars. These are the family ties that bind.