Norman E. Fultz
He was a middle-aged fellow. Accompanied by his teenaged son, he had come across a couple of states from his home to the big city where he hoped to find work to support his family. Being a Christian, he sought out the saints on Lord's day that he and his son might worship God after the New Testament order. After services they did not hurry away but lingered to meet fellow Christians in this strange metropolis. My wife and I asked them home for lunch and, when they faltered because they would not have much time, we assured them they need not feel obligated to stay longer than they felt they should. The couple of hours proved to be enjoyable.
A few days passed and a letter came from the brother who had settled on the opposite end of the city. The letter expressed gratitude for the hospitality, and on the back of it he had scrawled a poem which appears at the end of this article. Whether he was the original author, I do not know for it was unsigned. Being untitled, after reading and pondering upon the poem, I gave it the title "Mutual Aid." That was quite a few years ago and I have neither seen nor heard from the brother again, but I have read his poem many times. The point I see in the poem is the point I seek to make in this article.
No man is an island. One man is not a nation any more than one clod is a continent. None lives nor dies to himself. He affects and is affected by others. What he is, he is because of his contact with others, at least in part. And all who have come into contact with him are changed because of that contact. Where is the fully self-sufficient person? Maybe the wild "mountain man" or the hermit is self-sufficient! But God never so intended man's life to be this way. By nature, he is a social creature depending upon others and being depended upon by others.
Even so it is in the church, a community of believers. It is God's intention that we aid, comfort, edify and encourage one another; this can best be done by knowing, understanding and communicating with one another. But am I alone in the feeling that with the passing of years, brethren are growing more cold and indifferent toward one another, toward the stranger who comes among us as a visitor or newcomer, or even toward the regular members of the local churches? In a number of places where my work has taken me, I have detected on the part of many what seemed to be a tendency to keep, one another at arm's length. "Closeness" seems to be feared. At the same time, there are others who seem to yearn for a closeness with kindred spirits from whom strength and encouragement in the Christian life can be drawn. They need help to keep from getting "Sodom-cankered," and they see that possible help in those whose "spirit . . . soareth tall."
The Lord's church is essential. That essentiality is seen in its mission. It is to save souls (1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Thess. 1:8-9; Matt. 28:18-20). Salvation is in the body, the church (Acts 2:47; Eph. 5:23). Both its purchase price, the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28), and the fact that it was in God's eternal purpose (Eph. 3:10-11) underscore the importance of the church. All that being true, how important then becomes the relationship of those who compose it!
There is a need for "mutual aid" in the local church. When I speak of aid, I do not mean turning the church into a glorified "Red Cross" or social club, though each must stand ready to help a needy brother (1 John 3:17). I refer to a dependence each has on the other. The church is a body composed of many members. Paul uses that figure twice. In Romans 12:4-5 he says, "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another." We are members one of another. Please note that expression and turn in your Bibles to 1 Corinthians 12:20-27 and read it. There Paul further develops the analogy; he said, "God hath tempered the body together . . . that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another." Look at it. We are members one of another and should have the same care for one another.
In other passages, we are taught that the "strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves" (Rom. 15:1), that we should "bear one another's burdens" (Gal. 6:2), "consider one another to provoke unto love and good works" (Heb. 10:24), and to "comfort one another" (1 Thess. 4:18). We are to "by love serve one another" (Gal. 5:13). In a context speaking of brotherly love, John wrote that "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16). The first Christians were happy in their association together. Of them it is said they were "breaking bread from house to house, (and) did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart" (Acts 2:46). Are we, because of the hurried pace of our own life, afraid to "open up" and "reach out" in genuine friendship and brotherly love? Are we wary lest we do find someone who needs some help with a burden and lest we be called upon to serve another?
Those who are stronger often fail to realize the needs of the weaker, the need for someone "to rub on" the "balm for aching hearts," to be near "while God and Christ seem far away." Even those who are newborn in Christ are often set adrift on their own, and many of them falter and fall whereas they may have been strengthened and saved if some had been "given to hospitality" (Rom. 12:13) and had used it (1 Pet. 4:9). There may be some who "yearn and often cry" for the company of one of like precious faith for his small spirit needs a tall spirit to aid and strengthen him. Ponder the poem and see what I mean.
I've blundered o'er the paths of life
And had my share of joy and strife.
Some good I've done along the way,
But much more bad, I'm bound to say.
The evil thoughts and deeds are mine
To blame another, I decline;
For God, the Father, and His Son,
Are with me always, three in one-
That is, if I myself would take
And purge my spirit for His sake.
So why on earth should you or I
Be aught but good if we should try?
For you, I hope, the task is small;
Your spirit, maybe, soareth tall.
But mine, alas, I blush to say
Gets Sodom-cankered o'er the way,
And for the cure which God supplies
It sorely yearns and often cries,
Not being willing quite, I find
To look ahead and not behind.
In Christ, the balm for aching hearts,
Through His Spirit, God imparts.
But who's to rub it on each day
While God and Christ seem far away?
You, my brother, sister, friend,
By loving, helping, to the end.
And, oh, the joy and peace untold
That comes to any wandering soul,
When Christians, all, not asking why
God's balm of love and truth apply!
Yes, brother and sister in Christ, your company with a weaker Christian may be the deterrent to his falling away, and by helping him, you will yourself be strengthened.
Truth Magazine XXII: 12, pp. 204-205