I'm reading "The Light and the Glory" by Peter Marshall and David Manuel right now. It's absolutely amazing. I'm just devouring it! I didn't know how very very ignorant I was about American history until now! I just read a few paragraphs written by the authors as they pondered the way those early settlers related to one another. I found them so profound I wanted to share them with you :)
"How critically important for us Christians is this business of commitment to one another-as vital for the Body of Christ today as it was three-and-a-half centuries ago! There are two great steps of faith in the Christian walk, and they correspond to the two Great Commandments: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself."
The first step of faith is the vertical commitment: once a person has discovered the reality of God, and has experienced the miraculous gift of salvation in His Son Jesus Christ, he then must face the prospect of accepting Christ as his Lord and Master, as well as Saviour. To do this means yielding our wills to God: "Nevertheless not my will but Thy will be done....
The second step of faith is the horizontal commitment to one's neighbor, and ultimately to that specific body of Christian neighbors of whom God calls one to be a part. In a way, this second step requires even more faith, because now one has to learn to trust a perfect God operating in and through imperfect vessels. We must do this, armed only with the assurance that it is God's will, that the other vessels' hearts are also turned towards His will, and they they too are aware of their being called to serve Him together. (Oh so convicting! I always think of my faith, well as just that, my faith rather than as our faith...together.)
The vertical aspect of the Covenant has to come first, just as the First and Great Commandment does. But as strong as it is, the vertical aspect alone, without a cross-bar, is not the Cross of Christ. (Wow! I never thought about the Cross in that way before, as an anology of our commitment to Christ, vertically to Him and then horizontally to His Body.)
This second step calls one to yield (ouch! not an easy thing to do!) to that local part of the Body of Christ, and to dedicate oneself to that congregation and its work. (oh my, stay with me here...listen to this next statement...) Indeed, the body's effectiveness will be magnified to the extent to which its individuals mutually dedicate themselves. This dedication accounted for the soldierly esprit de corps of the early Jesuits, and made them the shock troops of the army of Christ. Alone, their vertical commitment to Christ was unsurpassed-buta s a body, they were renowned the world over! Esprit de corps-the literal translation is "the spirit of the body."
This may be one of the reasons why God permits pressures to befall the Body of Christ. For wherever there is pressure of affliction, there is a corresponding increase in commitment to one another, as well as commitment to God. This, we believe, is the reason He allowed the persecution and long exile of the Pilgrims(who were the first of the European settlers coming for religious freedom arriving in 1620 and were known as "separatists" for they wanted to separate completely from the Church of England, believing it beyond the ability to reform); the four wretched months in which saints and strangers shared their plight in the belly of the Mayflower, before being disgorged onto the new Promised Land; the four more months of General Sickness....So that when they finally stood on their feet, they stood together, as a body. And they were thus able to pass on to the Puritans (the European settlers who came to Salem, New England shortly after the puritan Pilgrims settled in Plymouth...their hope was to purify the Church of England, not actually separate from them) a proven model by which to build.
"A house divided against itself shall not stand," Jesus told his disciples (Matthew 12:25), and with each New England church, God was building a house, not just assembling a pile of stones. As Peter wrote to new Christians, "Come and as living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house..." (1 Peter 2:5 amplified)
In the rocky fields of New England, God was raising up a kingdom of stone houses, with each stone in each house fitted into place by Him. This kingdom would be as close as a family, a spiritual family which would be able to withstand the most implacable pressure the world could bring to bear. As we were coming to see, these stone houses were in turn to be the foundation stones, not merely of American democracy, but of the Kingdom of God in America.
I realize there are so many views of church and denominations and the reformation. I didn't share this to point those out or cause division. What really stood out to me and caused me to spend 30 minutes typing it on my blog was the idea of, the command of, loving your neighbor as yourself. And here specifically loving the body of believers that God has called you to, as you love yourself. Loving those people that sit behind you, beside you and in front of you at church, like they are family. Wow, the idea of it is so beautiful. In our individualistic culture (me so, so, so very included in this) we have forgotten how, we've lost touch with what it means to live in community, to live in brotherly love and affection for one another. I really want to change-may God help me!