This series of reflections dips into the well of Scripture as regards the Quaker testimonies of: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship/Sustainability.
We cannot do life by ourselves. We need community in order to strengthen the bonds of love that keep us on the path of righteousness. Self-love and self-care are important, but they are not enough. We must remember that, as the Body of Christ, we are connected to each other and to all creation so that, “when one member suffers, all members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all members share its joy” (1 Corinthians 12:25-27). We feel deep compassion for those whom we love and thus, we are called to love all people, so that we may feel their pain and reach into their hearts with the compassion necessary to look beyond their frailties and faults and see them as fragile beings who struggle through life just as we do.
As human persons, we are meant to “with all humility and gentleness, and with patience, [bear] with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:2-4). Who are we to decide that someone is not worthy of our love when God loves them unconditionally? We have to look beyond the scope of worldly judgment to that of the divine. This is no easy task, as we must lay down our own burdens of hatred, vengeance, intolerance, and fear to see someone as God sees them, and therefore treat them with love. It is only in this way that we can build up a community of faith, of love, of peace. This is exactly what Isaac Penington meant when he wrote: “Our life is love, and peace, and tenderness; and bearing one with another, and forgiving one another, and not laying accusations one against another; but praying one for another, and helping one another up with a tender hand.”
We are specifically called, by the “law of Christ” to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) and in doing so, the burden of the one is lightened and the chance of some kind of solution to emerge is heightened. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up the other…[and]…a threefold cord is not quickly broken” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 12). An oft-used demonstration of this concept is to take a toothpick or other thin stick and break it; it snaps easily. But if several of these sticks are bundled together, it is nigh impossible to break them.
Unity in the Spirit is also important to the accomplishment of great works of love. Individuals can do great things, but it is only by working together that we can sustain a living legacy of God’s love in our actions to conquer oppression and achieve justice. We must “…consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together…but encouraging one another…” (Hebrews 10:24-25). It is this encouragement in the Light that gives us what we need to walk the path of righteousness in a troubled world. Something to think about…
- How do we connect with others in our world on the level of the Spirit?
- How can we better approach the more ‘difficult’ people in our lives with humility, gentleness, and patience?
- What great deeds of love can we accomplish by uniting with others rather than trying to ‘go it alone’?