Most of our teens sit together during worship, taking up the front two or three rows. This morning I sat directly behind them, which I love doing for various reasons. During the closing prayer, they did something I?ve seen them do many times. They held hands. That always makes me smile. How encouraging to see them so close as a group! Those precious teens understand the concept, “united we stand, divided we fall.” They face enough pressure from the world to truly appreciate the support they get from and give to one another. Those Christian teens are joining forces to help each other go to Heaven.
How about row four and back? How close are the rest of us? Are we as aware of the importance of sticking together, forming bonds, and helping each other go to Heaven? Although I’m not suggesting that all of the adults start holding hands as well during the closing prayer, I do think there are some ways that we can “join hands.”
We join hands when we value our Christian family. I just left a hospital room full of grieving parents, grandparents, aunts and cousins. Yesterday, two girls, ages 8 and 4, tipped an ATV into a pond. Neither survived. What adds to the tragedy is the fact that no one in the family is a Christian. They do not know the Savior who wants them to cast their cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). They do not know the Heavenly Father who longs to hear their prayers (Philippians 4:6-7). They do not have a Christian family to lean on in this time of unbearable grief (Romans 12:15). They are sheep without a Shepherd as they wander through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:1-6). I can?t even begin to imagine how alone and desolate they must feel.
The church family is a gift from God, one to be treasured and valued. If we value our brothers and sisters in Christ, we will look forward to being together. We will greet each other with a warm and genuine smile. We will cherish the tie that binds us as God’s Family. And we will protect each other to the very best of our ability. Let us thank God for the church, our support group. Let us take advantage of the fact that we have so many with whom we can share joyous occasions or turn to in times of trouble.
We join hands by offering words of encouragement. It takes very little time and effort to say a few uplifting things to the sister on the other end of the pew, but who knows how greatly that might help her? On those occasions when I?ve been the recipient of encouragement, sometimes I smile and carry that warmth home with me. Other times I hang on to it like the lifeline that it is. That word of encouragement was an extended hand I was able to grab to keep from sinking.
You might think you can’t really encourage someone if you don’t know them well enough. While this may be partly true, you will be surprised by how quickly you come to know someone simply by saying something uplifting to them. What can you say to someone you rarely speak to? “I just want you to know that your faithful attendance has been such an encouragement to me! You are always here and I appreciate your wonderful example.” Your genuine compliment will open the door for closer companionship. Although your intent will be to say something kind to someone else, the result will be personal, spiritual growth and benefit. Let us hold hands with those we don’t even know very well by using every opportunity to encourage others (Galatians 6:10).
Finally, we join hands by extending warm affection to EVERYONE. You can tell who’s close. They cluster and talk. They hug and laugh. Their natural companionship and friendship is no secret, but rather a beautiful display of love and fellowship. And something that is envied by all too many. Never let any members of God?s Family stand there with wistful eyes, wishing they enjoyed that same kind of acceptance and closeness.
How can we offer warm affection so no one feels lonely or left out? All it takes is awareness and a willingness to express love to everyone. Be aware of all who attend, not just your close circle of friends. Take just a few minutes to look specifically for someone who is standing alone. Then purposefully walk toward that person with a smile on your face and a light in your eyes, letting them know how glad you are to see them. Just wait for the answering light in their eyes. It will come. You will make them feel special by extending warmth. What if we all committed to doing that for just two different people at every service? What a difference that would make in the closeness and unity of the body of Christ! Let us not be afraid to give of ourselves willingly and freely, following the example of our Savior (Philippians 2:4).
I am grateful for the lesson our teens have taught me. Their spiritual bond is sweet and genuine. It is my fervent prayer that they can see that same closeness in the rest of us, that we can be that same kind of example for them. Will you hold my hand?