Before you reject the thought that your love is less than selfless, read this.
Uniting in Christian Love
Today is celebrated as Valentine’s Day and has the theme of LOVE. I will explore some foundation principles related to bonding that can be applied to our families, a congregation and any team or group to which we are attached.
Why is cohesiveness – bonding, unity, team spirit – relevant?
1. As the popular saying goes in a team – Together Each Achieves More. Team and group work is more effective that independent individual effort.
2. Despite His mighty power, one of the first things Christ did at the start of His ministry was to pull together a team that would lead the process and sustain it after His departure.
3. Even among His elite team, cohesiveness challenges were present. Why should we expect to be different?
If we think of our bonding as improving teamwork then it is useful to reflect on a definition of TEAM:
“A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.”
What can we learn from this definition?
1. People with complementary skills
It is important to note Team work and Team Cohesiveness do NOT mean that everybody has to be same. We do not have to be clones to achieve unity and have high team spirit.
Even a quick examination of God’s handiwork will show that He wants to promote diversity. He introduces variety at every opportunity.
Calls for unity and commonality of purpose should NOT be equated with stripping us of our individuality. Successful teams need people to bring different talents, perspectives and ideas to the table.
I put it more strongly: One sign of a successful team is the fact that it helps its members to achieve self-fulfilment. Members feel empowered and move closer to the vision that they have of themselves in fully functional teams.
2. People who are committed to a common purpose.
The glue that holds the entire thing together is the commitment to the common purpose. Without the commitment to the common purpose the team loses its compass and finds it impossible to steer a clear and predictable path.
Without the commitment to the common purpose, members do not have any point of reference that can hold them together. It is like using rubber bands to tie a team of wild horses together and expecting them to pull your chariot along a prescribed path.
This requirement has two distinct and critically important components:
There must be a clearly identified purpose that is understood in the same way by all the members of the team. The purpose cannot be something that one person dreams up and fails to share with every member of the team.
The second component is that all the members of a functional team commit to the same understanding of the common purpose. One indelible sign of a dysfunctional team is the fact that some members are wavering in their commitment to the common purpose.
The importance of this focus on commitment to a common purpose is not lost in the scriptures:
Eph 4: 4 There is one body and one Spirit— just as you were called to one hope when you were called— 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
Phil 1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.
3. People who are committed to a set of performance goals and approach
Successful teams know where they are going. They also know how they are going to get there. In addition, they know if they are on track.
Successful teams are clear on the strategies and the activities that will lead them to the achievement of the common purpose.
Successful teams have guidelines and yardsticks that indicate to them whether they are on course or not.
Successful teams do not lose bearing and lose momentum because they have set performance goals that keep them on track.
In successful teams members know and commit to the performance goals. They understand that the guidelines and yardsticks are directly linked to the attainment of the common purpose. Consequently, the failure to meet a performance goal is a step away from achievement of the common purpose to which they are committed.
In successful teams members buy into an agreed approach. One that is tied to performance goals that lead to attainment of the common purpose.
In successful teams members strive to understand the agreed approach and its implications for them and for the team.
In successful teams members do NOT come up with their own approaches and guidelines as they deem fit. This is NOT what is meant by your being able to keep your individuality.
4. People who are mutually accountable
Jesus was an exceptional team coach. Flip through the Gospels again with a mind set to look for issues related to working in groups, team spirit and team cohesiveness and see how Jesus handled them.
He understood the importance of the internal workings of the team. Issues concerning how members interact with each other.
Matt 12: 25:
25 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
The ultimate advice with respect to unity and bonding for the Christian is given by Christ himself:
Matt 22: 34 – 40
34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: ”‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
What are the characteristics of this love that we ought to have for our neighbours:
1 Cor 13:
4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
For me, some of the clearest instructions on how to Christians are to bond is reflected in Romans 12:
9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.[c] Do not be conceited.
17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d]says the Lord. 20On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Also Col 3:
12Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
The ultimate test of self-discipline is when everything about you says “Just do it!” you somehow find the strength not to do it. We are pretty good at re-affirming commitments to do or not to do a list of things. However, the acid challenge to compliance really takes place in a fleeting moment. If only we could recall some of those decisive moments.
Truth is that discipline has to become a reflex action. No time for thinking. We have to train ourselves to produce certain “automated” responses to given stimuli. The Bible teaches: Flee from the very appearance of evil. Discipline needs to be grounded in some knee-jerk reactions.
Just don’t do it!