GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 569 • October 3, 2020
BLESSED BE THE TIE THAT BINDS OUR HEARTS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE.
Can love, Christian love, be the antidote to racism?
You might want to get your hymn book out and sing John Fawcett’s song “Blessed (or Blest) Be the Tie” – it bears in its first verse the words given as a title to this essay. Hopefully all six verses of the song will be available in your book for you to sing. It emphasizes what we share as Christians: mutual woes, burdens, sympathies, hopes, and expectations of perfect peace, love, and friendship in heaven that will last for all eternity. It emphasizes the value and power of *the fellowship of kindred minds* that keeps us *joined in heart* even when we have to be apart from each other – a pandemic disease is not the only separation and social distancing we endure in life.
Now sing Joseph Swain’s song of the same genre, **How Sweet, How Heavenly** which emphasizes the value and the power of love in a Christian’s life.
How sweet, how heav’nly is the sight when those who love the Lord*
In one another’s peace delight, and so fulfill the word.*
. . . . . . . . .
Love is the golden chain that binds the happy souls above,
And he’s an heir of heav’n who finds his bosom glow with love.
It emphasizes the sympathetic and empathic sharing of circumstances, of human successes and failures, being of the same mind toward each other (*the mind of Jesus,* Philippians 2:1-5). You will probably linger over each appearance of the word *love* – savor it, think how sweet and grand it is to receive it and to give it and have it received by others.
Now take a little detour with me while we think of our kinship and fellowship another way.
“WE BE OF ONE BLOOD, YOU AND I.”
That’s more than a quote from Kipling’s Jungle Book, or the movie I remember from late in the bright light of my youth. It’s something I often remind myself of now in life’s twilight, but with a different meaning than Kipling’s animal and human characters. If I remember correctly they spoke of a certain kinship that transcended natural species. I can accept that in small part because all of us living beings are from the hand of the same creator, and one blood – one kind of blood per species – does bind each separate species together. It’s a way of saying that underneath the visible surface, “under the skin” so to speak, there is something that identifies us as the same kind. One blood, human blood identifies us as members of the same species; we are of the same kind, human kind, under the skin. If only we could learn to look past the skin and a few other differences in our visible selves we would know we are more alike than we are different. Looking under the skin we might be hard pressed to determine what “kind” we are, other than humankind. Even though we – sometimes reluctantly and grudgingly – accept a common humanity we too often and too gladly look for excuses to separate ourselves as different races *(kinds?)* of humans. Do you not know that humans are of “one blood” – the same blood is shared among all humans? Blood is not racially white or black or brown, yellow, red, etc. All are of one race, the human race. “Of one the Lord has made the race” (there’s another song you might sing, though it could detract from the point of this essay). From the original man and woman, Adam and Eve (see Acts 17:24-26) God made all humans – there were no other humans, humanoids, or non-human links before them, though the ignorance of falsely-called science (1 Timothy 6:20 KJV) protests otherwise. We are not a temporary species, a link in an evolutionary chain issuing from innumerable ancestral kinds and destined to issue the next forward step in an eternal succession. We are God’s singular creation: one blood, one race, one kind – human kind. However. …
CHRISTIANS ARE ALSO OF ONE BLOOD, A DIFFERENT BLOOD.
Recently a dear friend who also has been a “missionary evangelist” exchanged some remembrances with me of experiences we have had in places where we were notably different from those with whom we sought to share Christ. A common experience of missionaries is exposure to and involvement in different racial, ethnic, and cultural groups. This particular brother and I, though never ministering together in the same place and time, had a similar experience: he in the nation of Ghana, West Africa and I in the island nation of Barbados. We spoke of learning at first hand from people who had endured the horrors of the slave trade and the different reactions of people who have been and are still touched by slavery and racism in various forms. Our conversation sparked in me memories and thoughts of a month-long mission I had in Barbados, a nation that is about 97% black. I was a “stand out.” For all the time I was there I do not recall seeing one white face other than my own. But here’s the thing: all the people there seemed to be “color blind” – if my presence was disconcerting or stressful or in any way uncomfortable for members of the church I never detected it. They treated me as one of them, not just an “odd one” with them or among them. One brother told me it would be easy to recognize and differentiate me from the others. “You’d probably be the one wearing a necktie,” he said, with a smile that stretched from ear to ear and caused a squint in both eyes. He meant it as a joke and he told it with great panache. Of course it was not literally true: I was not the only “necktied” one there, but I was – still am – the one too uptight to be casual much of the time in a church function. But it pleased me, pleased him too, to know that under the externals we were the same: *“We are of one blood, you and I.”* Not just human blood. There was and is a deeper tie we both recognized — that’s what I’ve been trying to get to with this essay. We are of one blood, the blood of Christ.
It is fair to say that the blood of Christ – not his love but His blood – is the tie that binds us together as Christians, as people of God under the New Covenant, as heirs together of all the blessings and promises of God (Romans 8:16-17). I am not dissing, dismissing, or minimizing love as “the golden chain that binds our happy hearts above” in Christ, as we like to sing. That love, not just ordinary human love and affection but extraordinary love like the love felt and displayed, taught to us and commanded of us by Christ himself, is what identifies us as His true disciples. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34-35) – not just love, but love like His. Not just that we love each other – even the least humane and inhuman among us manage to love each other in some way.
But even love like His is not what saves us. Love is not the actual literal tie that binds us to each other or to Him. Love is not our savior, even as the cross of Christ is not our Savior. We are saved spiritually by the blood of Christ, washed from our sins by His blood (Revelation 1:5), purchased at the cost of His own life’s blood given because of His love for us and His desire to save us for himself and for God (Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Loving as He loves makes us more reflective of His character – the qualities that make Him attractive to people make us attractive too if they are in us as part of our character, which is to say if Christ is in us and we are in Him. Love prompted Jesus to give himself for us, and produced His mercy and grace that provided salvation for us. The cross is the personal price he paid for privilege of being our Savior but the cross itself, as either physical object or symbol does not save anyone. A proper confession based upon penitent faith and submissive obedience, which includes proper baptism, removes sin, brings forgiveness, provides our access into Him and His church, identifies us as Christians and validates our fellowship with Him and with each other. We are of one blood, the blood of Christ.
IT IS CHRIST HIMSELF WHO BINDS US TOGETHER.
Christ’s love for us and Christ’s life blood sacrificed for us do not automatically save us – there is no universal salvation for all that issues from his love and his blood. It is not our belief in him and his death and resurrection and exaltation to heaven nor our obedience (which is partial and incomplete – because of incomplete knowledge, but more often a matter of selective obedience) – accepting what we want and doing what we can do easily but rejecting the more difficult matters, such as being a personal living sacrifice doing everything he calls us to do (Romans 12:1-2), nor our fellowship and sharing with each other (which is also partial, selective and self-satisfying) that binds us together in Christ. None of these things we have mentioned, singularly or in combination, can bind us together fully and make us one in Christ (Galatians 3:26-28). Those who are in Him, bound together in His blood and His love, cannot practice any kind of artificial racism. Christianity is the conqueror and eliminator of racism.
Let’s consolidate our thoughts here. It is not things that are like Christ, not things that are from Christ, and not things that are done for Christ that make us Christians. A common (shared) love, mercy, and grace do not provide sufficient bonding and binding. A common redemption, a common purchase price (the blood of Christ), and a common baptism (with faith and repentance as necessary precursors to salvation) are not enough.
Blessed be God’s Christ. He himself and He alone is the Tie that binds us to each other, and binds us to God while we are faithful in Him. We are one blood, one people, with one obedient faith in one God, one Lord, one Holy Spirit, one baptism, one calling, one hope – we are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord. We are one in Christ.
CHRIST IS THE TIE THAT BINDS OUR HEARTS IN CHRISTIAN LOVE AND IN GOD. <><>