Held Together by a Spiritual Thread

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It was 1980. We moved to a small town in northeastern Alberta. Bonnyville, population 4,000, was the land of lakes, aurora borealis, 40-below, picturesque, frosty, white winter mornings and summer evenings that never ended. The brethren were scattered among little farming communities. We had been in the Church 10 years. A couple of larger families, including ours, made weekly Sabbath services possible. Previously, the group met for a monthly Bible study.

We did not spend time criticizing or finding flaws. Time was precious.

All of us were so different—a “motley group” I called us. Sixty-nine brethren held together by a spiritual thread, the Holy Spirit. We didn’t have much else in common. Dutch, English, French, Ukrainian, American idiosyncrasies, and distinctly different personalities were all thrown together into the melting pot of the Church. The minister said there were 12 types of personalities. And our group had them all. It was like God threw a broken puzzle into a box and waited to see how it would all work out. We had to learn how to put the pieces together. How was it ever going to work?

Celebrating the differences

Developing strong families and relationships take work and meaningful time spent together—talking, laughing, caring, sharing, empathizing, singing, playing, helping, getting to know one another. It means putting away childish competition, jealousies, envy, criticism, strife, and instead focusing on our shared glorious goal. And in Bonnyville, it meant celebrating our differences. Learning to love each other for who we were, being accepting of others.

Each Sabbath families traveled long distances to church, even in 30-below-zero winter weather to be with one another. We always made sure we talked to every member, sharing our concern and interest, no matter what age, nationality, personality or disposition. We invited and were invited into one another’s home for a Sabbath meal, sharing stories, joy, daily struggles—really getting to know each other. We did not spend time criticizing or finding flaws. Time was precious. Winter evenings after a Sabbath potluck we’d play volleyball as a family. There’d be winter camp during the holidays. In summer, we’d spend warm Sunday afternoons picnicking and tubing lazily down the river, children and adults building friendships. There were evenings we spent sitting around a blazing campfire singing to the strumming sounds of a guitar.

We grafted the young singles, the widower and the single moms into the fabric of our own families. We allowed God to stitch us together, weaving us into loving, thoughtful, beautiful tapestry He could use in His family. After our five-year sojourn in Bonnyville, we were a real Church family, having grown to love every single person within that family.

What kind of family will you have?

We could have let our differences divide us and become a bickering, unhappy family, but instead we became a loving, unified and caring family. The choice was ours.

What kind of Church family do you want? Ask yourself, when was the last time you spent time with your brother, invited him for a meal, shared in his goals, dreams and struggles?

We read in 1 John 4:20-21 1 John 4:20-21 [20] If a man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? [21] And this commandment have we from him, That he who loves God love his brother also.
American King James Version×
“If anyone says ‘I love God,’ but keeps on hating his brother, he is a liar; for if he doesn’t love his brother who is right there in front of him, how can he love God whom he has never seen? And God himself has said that one must love not only God but his brother too” (The Living Bible).

Yet familiarity can breed contempt. Unless we are on our guard, even in the Church, we tend to think knowing others well gives us the right to be critical, to make negative comments, be argumentative or make generally gruff and unfriendly remarks, just as we might to members of our own family at home.

We have to remember our brothers and sisters in Christ have differences in education, income, attitudes, temperaments, personality, tastes and opinions. Does that mean they are on a lower level of conversion? Haven’t we read it is not wise to compare ourselves among ourselves? Besides, aren’t we to bear one another’s burdens? Should we not learn to appreciate and respect the differences? God does! Why do you think He created such diverseness in the human, flora, animal and insect kingdom? So why do we think a brother should be a carbon copy of us? Life would surely be monotonous.

What of the stranger who enters our midst, a new member, a babe in Christ? Might we have prejudices, discriminations, judgmental attitudes of which we are not aware? Can we accept someone different from ourselves? Do we welcome them? Or do we become jealous or bossy, like a spoiled child when a new baby arrives in the family? These patterns of behavior should be left behind when becoming an adult.

How do we approach members’ unconverted mates? Are they not sanctified in God’s eyes too (1 Corinthians 7:14 1 Corinthians 7:14For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
American King James Version×
)? Remember the warning that we are not to oppress the stranger within the land. This admonition was given to the Church in the wilderness (Exodus 22:21 Exodus 22:21You shall neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 25:38 Matthew 25:38When saw we you a stranger, and took you in? or naked, and clothed you?
American King James Version×
; Acts 7:38 Acts 7:38This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spoke to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give to us:
American King James Version×
). They are to be loved and accepted, too, for who knows if they may not be converted by our example.

Are we apt to show favoritism towards the more affluent brethren?

“Dear brothers, how can you claim that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ...if you show favoritism to rich people and look down on poor people? If a man comes into your church dressed in expensive clothes and with valuable gold rings on his fingers, and at the same moment another man comes in who is poor and dressed in threadbare clothes, and you make a lot of fuss over the rich man and give him the best seat in the house and say to the poor man, ‘You can stand over there if you like or else sit on the floor’—well, judging a man by his wealth shows that you are guided by wrong motives” (James 2:1-4 James 2:1-4 [1] My brothers, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. [2] For if there come to your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; [3] And you have respect to him that wears the gay clothing, and say to him, Sit you here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand you there, or sit here under my footstool: [4] Are you not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
American King James Version×
, The Living Bible).

Christ was willing to die for His brothers. We should also be willing to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. So let’s examine ourselves on how we choose to treat those in our Church family. Woven with the spiritual thread of the Holy Spirit, we can become a righteous spiritual tapestry, pleasing to God the Father and our elder brother Jesus Christ.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother

Written by Bob Russell and Bobby Scott
Released by the Hollies and Neil Diamond in 1970

The road is long, with many a winding turn,
That leads us to who knows where, who knows where.
But I’m strong, strong enough to carry him.
He ain’t heavy—he’s my brother.

So on we go, his welfare is my concern.
No burden is he to bear, we’ll get there.
For I know he would not encumber me.
He ain’t heavy—he’s my brother.

If I’m laden at all, I’m laden with sadness,
That everyone’s heart isn’t filled with gladness
of love for one another.

It’s a long, long road from which there is no return.
While we’re on our way to there, why not share.
And the load, it doesn’t weigh me down at all.
He ain’t heavy—he’s my brother.