Grandma said you didn’t live with a man like Grandpa; you live around him. And that was pretty much the way things were between them. Grandpa didn’t feel at home in the house, and when he wasn’t at work he spent most of his time at the barn. When he was in the house they lived around each other (quote taken from Wendell Berry, Nathan Coulter, pg 35)
I’ve never really stopped to consider the difference between living with and around someone. People live with each other when they inhabit the same world and share in life’s ups and downs together. People live around each other when they occupy the same space but inhabit different worlds. It’s like the difference between good friends and family sharing a nice holiday meal and twenty business people sitting side-by-side on a public transit bus as they travel silently to their individual destinations.
I found this to be a good reminder of the kind of life Jesus envisions for his people. We’re not merely a bunch of individuals independently heading in the same general direction. We’re a divinely created family unit that shares in the same life with God. In fact, the deep Spiritual bond Jesus establishes between himself and us also binds us to one another. Together we compose “one body” (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:27; Col 3:25) united to the same head, Jesus Christ (Eph 4:15-16).
Paul points not to himself but ultimately to Jesus’ own heart when he says, “I want you to know how great a struggle I have…that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love” (Col 2:2). By his Spirit, Jesus is at work knitting our hearts together so we can live life together. This deep Spiritual (and mysterious) bond we share with each other in Jesus means we get to do life with rather than around each other.
What a great reminder to let our individual lives converge with the lives of other believers God has placed in our midst. Since we inhabit the same life in Jesus, we get to walk alongside each other through thick-and-thin. We get to be involved in each other’s lives. We get to encourage one another. We get to bear one another’s burdens.
As we pursue life with others we’ll quickly recognize that it is eminently more encouraging and life-giving than living the Christian life by ourselves merely around other Christians.