Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light, Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness, we must shine, You in your small corner, and I in mine.
A beautiful children’s song written well over a century ago and sung throughout has that last line played out in church life and it flies in the face of what Jesus prayed for his us.
Church can end up being something like this: We all try our best at being Christians during the week, then on a Sunday we come together to sing, hear a talk and give, then we go home again. Some Sundays are good, some are not up to expectations and we don’t know if we will go again. Now that we are in the season of digital church we can fast forward bits of church that we don’t like and even delete so that we can get on with our own lives.
You in your small corner and I in mine is not the answer to the prayer Jesus prayed.
John 17 v 6-26
V11 “I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one… V20-23 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me… V26 “I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
The answer was the second Advocate, the Holy Spirit, falling on the Church at Pentecost and the result was that the people were devoted to one another, Acts 2:42. The actual words are, ‘they continually devoted themselves.’ There is a need to continually devote ourselves to each other because things do go wrong. The way devotion is seen is how Jesus demonstrated it for us. The cross. In order for unity someone has to go on the cross and it is usually the one who isn’t in the wrong.
Who would you not lay your life down for? Jesus did it.
We don’t like sacrifice, it goes against our human nature, our understanding and it seems pointless. It seems weak, there is no return and it just feels like the other person wins and we climb down from what is true. Sacrifice is not a nice word.
The New Testament knows nothing of isolated believers. Wherever you find believers you find them in community. They were certainly not perfect and they needed challenging at times to keep gathering because they tended to drift away (Heb 10:24-25).
Has someone hurt you? Who are you separated from?
Some betrayals need to be allowed to go the way of destruction. Some denials can cause the beginning of a far better relationship. Some desertions can be understood.
We all have the stories of pain.
John Ortberg tells a story of a girl called Beth, she attended a new school when her family moved into a new home, she was desperately searching for a new friend.
In a vast field of isolation Beth found the pearl of great price – a friend; a best friend. Joanne was funny and bright and warm, and in the mysterious alchemy of human beings, two gawky 14 yr olds were alloyed in friendship. That year, Beth writes, the world became a different place for her. She belonged. The cafeteria of the new school was no longer a no-man’s land; someone was saving a place for her. Four years went by; birthdays, pizzas, projects, makeovers and sleepovers. Because of her friend, Beth writes, she learned the music of that era, she learned about boys and secrets and other people’s families and the fine art of passing notes in school.
She told Joanne everything, as best friends do. Her senior year, Beth told Joanne her biggest secret; She had fallen in love. It was an impossible crush. He was a blond haired, back of the bus Big Man on Campus who hardly knew Beth was alive. At best, he would occasionally grunt hello. Still, every night after school, after homework, Beth would call Joanne to tell her the details: where she had seen him, what he had worn or said, whether or not he had acknowledged her with a terse greeting. Joanne was always encouraging: ‘Maybe he likes you?’
Beth wanted so badly to believe her friend, to think this hero might feel for her some echo of what she felt for him. Beth could not stop hoping, even though he gave her so little reason, even though he didn’t seem to notice her and never said more than a grunt. She could not stop hoping, she writes, until the night Joanne showed up with him at the Prom.
And a friendship that blossomed for 4 years, with the only best friend she ever had, was silenced for 20 years.
Maybe you know a similar story. Maybe the ones who you did no harm to but you helped the most were so ready and available to hurt you. Maybe you remember those who betrayed you, who harmed you. Some of those people are now dead, some you do not know where they are living if they are, some are close by but they would not have a clue what you were talking about if you brought it up. But all of them can be found in the deepest parts of your heart. If the moment came, if you were so stirred up, it would still be possible to still feel something of the pain that you had back then. How can it be still painful? How can it still have an effect? It’s the work of Satan. He can cause the greatest harm by using people.
He has a reconnaissance on you. In every community that you live in, in your work, home, neighbourhood, friendship groups, He wants to know where you go and what you do, the people you mix with, your gifts. He is following your movements. The more you love people and value people, the more he hates you and belittles you. The more you are positive to people and influential in their life the more he wants to right you off. He wants you out of the action and in the corner and he will use people to get you there and their words to keep you there.
Will you be the answer to the prayer of Jesus or the fulfilment to the desire of the enemy of your soul? Come out of your small corner.