I announced it was time to go and my son and his friend scrambled into clean-up mode and prepared to say their goodbyes.
When I opened the door, my little guy turned to call out one final farewell. That’s when his friend ran to the door and they both leaned over for a sideways hug. My son then made what he considers the ultimate, laid-in-cement gesture of friendship. He yelled, “I’ll invite you to my birthday party!”
My son’s birthday is in October.
In the parking lot, I ask him how he enjoyed his time with his “best bud,” and he quickly corrects me. He likes to call him, “my favorite friend.”
I’ve been thinking as I watch all my kids, in their various stages of friendship and maturity, about what it really means to connect and belong, to love, to show grace, to stand strong and maybe even stand alone, and how God can bind us together with others in community.
After all, my son doesn’t just think about his friend now, or about inviting his friend to a party in October. He thinks about when they’re in middle school together and then about high school. He’s got long-term plans for friendship. This is sweet and cute and so “5-years-old,” but what if this is also for me as an adult, too?
In his book, Practice Resurrection, Eugene Peterson says this about the Church,
The Holy Spirit formed it (the church) to be a colony of heaven in a country of death.
This image captivates me. “A colony of heaven.” We can’t be heaven, of course. We live in sin-brokenness and we are so clearly imperfect. After all, that’s why we’re part of the Church—because we need a Savior! Because we’re sinners! We step on each other’s toes and we invade each other’s spaces at times. We all battle Death; it surrounds us in this death-bound world. The church is constantly battered from without and beaten within by the impact of that brokenness.
Still, we have life. We who follow Jesus already possess eternal life. This is what ties us together as believers. We’re not just in this together for the temporary, or even for a decade. We’re in this together for eternity, and the great news is that our eternity has already begun.
It’s not “once upon a time.” Our Kingdom life, our heavenly journey, begins the moment we follow Christ.
How can that change my perspective on loving others?
I feel less pressured, for one thing. I remember that God has an eternal work in mind. He brings people into my life and then He moves them on in a new season, and I can let Him direct my steps. When to cling? When to let go? He knows, and I can trust Him.
When God was preparing to take Elijah up to heaven, his sidekick, right-hand man, and apprentice (Elisha) knew Elijah was about to leave.
In 2 Kings 2, Elijah told Elisha three different times, “You stay here. God wants me to go to another place—Bethel, Jericho, the Jordan.” He tried to get Elisha to stay behind.
But every time Elisha said, “As Adonai lives and as you live, I will not leave you” (2 Kings 2:6). Elisha remained steadfastly by Elijah’s side and ultimately received a double-portion of the Lord’s anointing when he sees Elijah taken up to heaven.
Then Elijah was gone. God removed Elijah and led Elisha into a new season of ministry without his mentor there any longer.
I remember this also: that eternity has begun for us, but none of us are perfect in the here and now. I need the perspective of grace and of growth for me and for others: that we’re transforming—we haven’t already transformed.
And he himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, equipping the saints for the work of ministry, to build up the body of Christ, until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, growing into maturity with a stature measured by Christ’s fullness (Ephesians 4:11-13 CSB).
We’re in that place now of building and equipping one another, and we’re in this together UNTIL: Until Christ comes. Until we’ve achieved 100% unity in faith and knowing Jesus. Until we’ve fully matured into Christ-likeness.
We’re not there yet. In the meantime, we equip each other. We build each other up. We help each other become more like Jesus. We serve and we minister as He’s called and equipped us for the benefit of the whole Church because we’re in this together for now and for eternity.