“Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love” – just what is that tie? Have you ever thought about it? What is it that holds us together as one body in Christ?
In Ephesians 4:1-6 we are encouraged to walk worthy of the calling to which we are called and to eagerly maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It then goes on with a list of “ones” we share in common: one body (identity together), one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father. Our oneness is spiritual, consisting in a singular identity in the relationships established by the Holy Spirit.
Unfortunately, many substitutes have sprung up, turning “oneness” into an expression of personal preferences and pleasures. We tend to be one in activities such as sports or hobbies. Often oneness is based on perceived race, age group, income level, education, or style of worship activities! Without those commonalities, many leave and look for their form of “oneness.”
May I take the liberty to point out a radical difference in the concepts? The first list are bonds which endure and cannot be broken. The second list from popular culture is based on easily fractured relationships which change over time as the tides of social preferences shift and flex around us!
When our unity is based on the working of God’s grace, the Holy Spirit enables us to enjoy each other as fellow heirs of life through Christ. We know we are a collection of sinners and that we will never get everything right. We know that we need God and each member of the church more than we need a good ball player or talented musician. We need the weak and the strong and everyone in between. We need the young for their enthusiasm and the old for their wisdom. We need each other!
We know that God has forbidden us from ever saying to someone who is different from us, “I don’t need you” (1 Cor. 12:21). Instead, the very differences God has designed in by grace make each one necessary to every other member of the body.
Since that is true, we need to carefully consider how many things we have allowed to divert us from gathering together. All too often we withhold our presence and participation because our personal preferences are not met. Sometimes it is because another commitment has priority above fellowship in the Spirit under the Lordship of Christ. Many times we look at ourselves and ask, “Am I happy?” Instead, our concern should be wrapped up in the question, “Am I helping others become holy?”
We were all called to build up one another—an activity that requires personal contact. To be beneficial to the whole body, we need to be exposed to each other on a regular basis.
To have a strong body, we need to have strong bonds which hold us together—bonds which rest on the power of God and remain in place no matter what happens with the substitutes described above. In every circumstance and every activity, we look for the way God has intended us to make a difference and commit ourselves to being faithful to that call.
In reality the best way to measure the strength of “the tie that binds” is by what we will allow to sever the tie, even temporarily. When it is subject to personal whim and pleasure, it is not much of a bond, just a temporary convenience used to please self.
May God give us a grander vision of our role in His program and a more determined mindset to be actively involved in its progress! And when life does lead us to be apart, may we know the reality of the song and may it give us “inward pain.”