“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him – a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Eccl. 4:9-12
The hardest seasons of my life have been times I felt alone. When facing life’s turmoil, already difficult things seem more challenging if I don’t have others to help remind me who I am and what is true. The Bible is clear: God does not intend us to walk through life alone. Following Christ must happen in community with others.
God’s word describes community as what happens when people who believe in him come together with a common purpose of praying together, learning, and fellowship. (Acts 2:42-47) This month, we have been praying for Chinese Christians to hold fast to community because they truly need one another.
When the spiritual powers of darkness attack, they seek to sow doubt, division, and dissension among believers. Yet God is always with his people, keeping and caring for them. Usually, Christians are reminded he is still with them by worshiping and obeying together, alongside others. Here are a few ways I am praying this May for Chinese Christians to experience community.
An Identity Rooted in Jesus
Chinese believers are different ages, different ethnicities, different sexes, and hail from different socio-economic groups. Some are rural, uneducated grandmothers who remained faithful through years of trial; others are urbane intellectuals. Some Chinese believers trust in Jesus because they experienced physical healing over disease; others began to trust when disillusioned with the norms of their own society. Yet no matter their differences, who they are in Jesus is more important than anything else about them.
The number of Christians in China has increased greatly in recent decades, but Christians are still a minority in society. They need others who are defined by their identity in Christ, not their salary or the size of their apartment (to pick a few status symbols).
In Hebrews, just after the author says “let us hold fast,” he immediately ties this to community, telling the church they must not neglect to meet together, but should encourage one another. Just a few chapters later, Hebrews again urges Christians to persevere, to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Believers can keep running that long race because they are “surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses.” None of the Christian life is supposed to happen alone! Christians desperately need each other, and they need to experience life alongside others who are running (or have already finished) the long marathon of following Jesus.
Closer Than A Brother
Chinese believers are one family, children of the same God. They need family in Christ. They need “a friend who sticks closer than a brother”; other Christians who will love them, take care of them, and gently correct and direct them.
A few days ago, my children and I were praying for some Chinese Christians experiencing hard times. One child asked, “Why do you always call them ‘Brother So-and-So’?” Although our Presbyterian church is not very formal, we do not normally refer to other believers as “Brother” or “Sister.” I explained that many Christians use these titles because we are all children of God the Father, and since other believers are also his children, that makes us siblings. (I am not sure why these titles are rarely used in my circles, but I remember, in childhood, that Baptist friends in the South often used “Sister” and “Brother” to greet one another.)
Would You Pray With Us Today?
Most Chinese Christians I know regularly use these familial titles for other believers. I am praying that these are more than just words: that the relationships behind these family words are real, encouraging, and thick as blood. Chinese Christians need to know they are part of a family that will not abandon them, and will walk with them through the fire.
They particularly need those type of sibling relationships with others around them. But they also need to know that we, their brothers and sisters around the globe, have not forgotten them. Although we are in different nations and many of our challenges are different, the Lord who unites us is much more powerful than what differentiates us: “in Christ Jesus [we] are all sons of God, through faith.”
We can pray for them, remember them, and reach out and encourage them. Prayer is not just meaningless words. Prayer matters. When we pray for and with Chinese Christians, we join in their struggles. I am praying Chinese Christians will know the sweetness of the fellowship of the saints, both in their own cities — and even around the world.
E.F. Gregory is a mom of three. She lives in the San Gabriel Valley on the border of East Los Angeles, where her husband is a P.C.A. church planter.
FOR PRAYER AND REFLECTION
Pray for Chinese Christians to hold fast to fellowship with other believers.