One of the most powerful books about Christian community is Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. Written during the Nazi regime, it says, “The person who loves their dream of community will destroy community, but the person who loves those around them will create community.”
Our dream of what Christian community should be may prevent us from experiencing it. The reality may not live up to our dreams. Bonhoeffer shifts our focus away from imaginary Christian fellowship, urging us instead to love the flesh-and-blood people around us.
Psalm 133 celebrates unity within the worshiping community: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” (v. 1). The word “God’s people” literally means “brothers.” Anyone who has grown up with brothers or sisters knows that siblings do not always live in unity. From Cain and Abel to the latest church meeting, evidence of brothers and sisters fighting is all around us. Despite this reality, Psalm 133 reminds us of how powerful it is when (with God’s help) we live in unity.
The psalm uses two metaphors to celebrate our spiritual unity. First, unity is compared to oil running down a person’s head. The imagery here comes from Exodus 29 where instructions were given on how to consecrate priests. Anointing oil represented a time of celebration in the presence of God. When we are unified in God, we are set apart to celebrate and worship Him as one. Second, unity is like the dew on Mt. Hermon. This area is well known for its heavy dew which results in lush and vibrant vegetation. This life-giving image is transferred to the more arid region of Zion. The dew shows us how Christian community brings life and blessing.
>> Have you experienced unity within the body of Christ? What things do we do that divide us? What can you do to promote this type of life-giving, refreshing unity among your brothers and sisters in the Lord?
Father, the older we get, the more we understand the pervasiveness of sin. You exhort us to unity, but how can we love people who are so flawed? Show us how to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable.