Depending on how you view it, we just enjoyed/endured one of the most romantic/lamest holidays of the year, and I’m not referring to Presidents’ Day. Whether you celebrated the Hallmark holiday with your one true love or hung out with your “galentines” or “palentines,” I’m guessing chilling with your cat at home wasn’t your first choice. We seek out the people we love on special occasions and in everyday life. We all need others. From the very beginning God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). This did not apply just to the companionship of marriage but also to other relationships in our lives. We were created for fellowship, with God and with others.
Solomon, blessed with wisdom from the Lord, says this in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12:
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
My favorite part of that section is the last line—the whole time Solomon is talking about the blessing and advantages of two people versus just one, and he finishes with, “A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” Wait, when did a third wheel sneak in? Ah, Christ is our perfect third wheel. When people are closely joined in love and Christian fellowship—marriage, brotherhood, friendship—Christ is there with them, giving strength to the relationship and the bond. This is how he created us to be, to need him and to need others. We need others to do life with, to suffer with us, to pick us up when we are down, to rebuke and correct us, to encourage and motivate us, to lead us back to our Savior.
We see a few great examples of this fellowship and “life groups” in the Bible. One is the early Christian church described in the book of Acts, where they met together daily, worshiping and praying together, breaking bread and telling jokes about the Romans (I’m assuming), while making sure everyone in their group was taken care of physically and spiritually. This is a classic example of beautiful Christian fellowship, but I want to bring your attention to a different friend group that we meet on the rooftop of a house in Capernaum:
And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:17-20).
Can you picture it? This man had a great life group, didn’t he? They knew their friend’s weakness, which could have become a gulf between them; instead, it became an opportunity for a servant attitude on the part of his friends and an opportunity for humility, vulnerability, and trust on the part of the paralytic. His friends came together and thought outside the box to break through a roof and lay him at the feet of Jesus. A think tank, a community, different parts of the body of Christ . . . this can lead to a hole in a roof and a front row seat at Jesus’ feet. And Jesus looked at this man who had just dropped down in front of him. He looked at the man’s friends, who had physically and spiritually carried him there. He saw their faith. He said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Wait, what? Turns out, when we get neck deep in community and doing life with people as children of God, we find our sins being talked about, confessed, and forgiven. We don’t know what that paralyzed man struggled with as far as temptations to sin . . . perhaps resentment and bitterness for his life of troubles. But we know that his friends knew he needed Jesus. And when Jesus saw that life group, saw their love and action and humanity and caring in the face of suffering, he healed . . . spiritually. And then, to show his authority to do that, he also healed the man physically (Luke 5:21-26).
Do you have a life group like the paralytic? People who know what struggles you face and will bust through a roof to drop you at Jesus’ feet? People who will rejoice with you in the good times and limp at your side through the bad? A spouse, a sibling, a friend . . . a couple of cords that can be strengthened by Christ as your third wheel? If not, seek one out. Join a small group at church. Create your own if they don’t exist. It might not happen overnight because one of the requirements for true intimacy is unhurried time. We can’t fit deep community into the cracks of an overloaded schedule. But as the paralytic man found out, it will be more than worth it.