COMMUNITY: "LIKE COSTLY ANOINTING OIL FLOWING DOWN HEAD & BEARD" (Part 15)
Psalm 133 (ESV)
1Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity!
2It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes!
3It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the LORD has commanded the blessing,
Our membership in the church is a corollary of our faith in Christ. We can no more be a Christian and have nothing to do with the church than we can be a person and not be in a family. When we become Christians, we are among brothers and sisters in faith. No Christian is an only child.
Not Like Paying Taxes:
This Psalm puts into song what is said and demonstrated throughout Scripture: community is essential. God never works with individuals in isolation for isolation, but always with people in community. How great it is to have everyone sharing a common purpose, traveling a common path, striving toward a common goal, that path and purpose and goal being God.
Two Ways to Avoid Community:
Living together in a way that evokes the glad song of Psalm 133 is one of the great and arduous tasks before Christ’s people. Nothing is more difficult. A common way to avoid community is to deal with people as problems to be solved rather than see them as brothers and sisters to serve. Christians, rightfully understood, are a community of people who are visibly together at worship but who also remain in relationship through the week in witness and service. Another common way to avoid community is to turn the church into an institution. In this way people are treated not on the basis of personal relationships but in terms of impersonal functions.
Every community of Christians is imperiled when either routes are pursued: the route of defining people as problems to be solved, the way one might repair an automobile or the route of lumping people together in terms of economic ability or institutional effectiveness, the way one might run a bank. Somewhere else lies community—a place where each person is taken seriously, learns to trust others, depend on others, be compassionate with others, rejoices with others.
Each Other’s Priest:
The first image of this Psalm is one of anointing with costly oil. The oil was being used symbolically to represent marking a person as a priest. Living together means seeing my brother and sister as my priest. When we see the other as God’s anointed, our relationships are profoundly affected. It is not what a Christian is in themselves, their spirituality and piety, which constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what a man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ had done to us and what Christ makes us.
The second image of this Psalm is the dew on Mount Hermon flowing down the slopes of Zion. Symbolic of the renewing spirit that God provides us. Important in any community of faith is an ever-renewed expectation of what God is doing with our brothers and sisters in the faith. When we are in community with those Christ loves and redeems, we are constantly finding out new things about them. They are new persons each morning, endless in their possibilities, renewed by the love of Christ.
The oil communicates warm, priestly relationship. The dew communicates fresh and expectant newness.
Rousing Good Fellowship:
Christians are always attempting and never quite succeed at getting a picture of the life everlasting. Psalm 1333 throws out just a hint of heaven. It is where relationships are warm and expectancies fresh, we are already beginning to enjoy the life together that will be completed in our life everlasting.
(This post is a summary and partial abridgement of Eugene Peterson’s book “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” It is based solely on Peterson’s work and any help that this content gives should be credited to God’s grace through Peterson’s effort. In other words, give God glory, thank Eugene Peterson and consider buying the book.)