We Need Each Other
God formed us in such a way that we need one another. We are not self-contained and self-sufficient independent beings. By God’s purposeful design, we are not complete without one another.
Pearl Buck has observed, “The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”
Rachel Held Evans adds, “I’m not exactly sure how all this works, but I think, ultimately, it means I can’t be a Christian on my own. Like it or not, following Jesus is a group activity, something we’re supposed to do together. We might not always do it within the walls of church or even in an organized religion, but if we are to go about making disciples, confessing our sins, breaking bread, paying attention, and preaching the Word, we’re going to need one another. We’re going to need each other’s help.” (Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church, p. 255)
James points our attention to this reality in the closing verses of his letter.
In verses 13 & 14 he asks, “Are any among you suffering?…. Are any among you sick?” “Among you” is a phrase that has to do with community. It’s a phrase that has to do with being connected to each other. It calls us to pay attention to the hurts and needs of each other. It calls us to look out for one another.
In verse 16, James becomes more specific. He commands, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another….” Do I struggle with certain temptations? I should not make things worse by keeping my struggle secret. I am called to confess my struggle to a trustworthy Christian friend or leader. Have I fallen or failed? Does guilt hammer away at me? Rather than suffering alone in shame, I am told to confess my guilt to a trustworthy Christian friend or leader.
Verse 16 also instructs, “And pray for one another….” We are called to stand with one another, supporting and encouraging each as we pray for one another.
In verses 19-20 we are encouraged to reach out to any who fall away, with the goal of restoring them to fellowship.
We need each other, and we are to live out the Christian life in meaningful connection with each other.
The late columnist Mike Royko shared a story that was told to him by Slats Grobnik who sold Christmas trees: “Slats remembered one couple on the hunt for a Christmas tree. The guy was skinny with a big Adam’s apple and small chin, and she was kind of pretty. But both wore clothes from the bottom of the bin at the Salvation Army store.
“After finding only trees that were too expensive, they found a Scotch pine that was okay on one side, but pretty bare on the other. Then they picked up another tree that was not much better—full on one side, scraggly on the other. She whispered something, and he asked if $3 would be okay. Slats figured both trees would not be sold, so he agreed.
“A few days later Slats was walking down the street and saw a beautiful tree in the couple’s apartment. It was thick and well rounded. He knocked on their door and they told him how they worked the two trees close together where the branches were thin. Then they tied the trunks together. The branches overlapped and formed a tree so thick you couldn’t see the wire. Slats described it as ‘a tiny forest of its own.’
“‘So that’s the secret,’ Slats asserts. ‘You take two trees that aren’t perfect, that have flaws, that might even be homely, that maybe nobody else would want. If you put them together just right, you can come up with something really beautiful.’”
That is the essence of the church. God takes imperfect people and puts us together. Together we are fuller and more beautiful than we could ever be on our own.