If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, go together.
I read Ecclesiastes Chapter 4 last week. It’s the passage that ends with “A chord of three strands is not easily broken.” Sadly the full impact of this passage is often missed because the “three strands” verse seems to have been co-opted for wedding use only!
That verse has its context in everything that precedes it. Incredible verses –
Verse 1 - I saw the tears of the oppressed—
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors—
and they have no comforter.
Verse 4 - And I saw that all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
Verse 6 - Better one handful with tranquillity
than two handfuls with toil
and chasing after the wind.
If ever there was a call to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”, then this is it. It is a damning critique of our desire to consume at the expense of community, at the expense of the least fortunate among us, and at the expense of our own health. The chapter continues –
There was a man all alone;
he had neither son nor brother.
There was no end to his toil,
yet his eyes were not content with his wealth.
“For whom am I toiling,” he asked,
“and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment?”
This too is meaningless—
a miserable business!
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labour:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Do you see how the last verse now starts to make more sense? Can you see that it is a wider call to community as well as a handy verse for a marriage ceremony? Speaking of unions, it could even seem that the ancient author of Ecclesiastes was considering starting a union!
This chapter screams that we are on this earth to co-operate, not compete. We do this because we are all made in the image of God, and not to put too fine a point on it, God is a team. We have that same divine DNA in us – we are made for each other, and to succeed at the expense of someone else’s failure is not success in God’s eyes.
That is part of what the cord of 3 strands is suggesting. A God of 3 strands – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Theologians speak of perichoresis – the eternal 3-sided dance that incredibly we are invited to be part of.
So if you believe that Christians are called to be properly involved in the political systems and structures of our world, and not just shouting from the sidelines, then join with some others who have a similar passion. The Christian Socialist Movement exists to be a support, resource and network for Christians who are getting stuck in with politics on the left. It is an incredible adventure, with its joys and its challenges, but neither should be faced alone. That’s why we are encouraging our members all across the country to get together to support each other both practically and in prayer. A great example of this was during the general election of 2010, when CSM members moved all over the country helping their brothers and sisters to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves”. We are partners in the restoration, reconciliation and redemption of all things. But our God is a God who does things through relationship, even when that means going slower. His kingdom never moves faster than the speed of relationships. It can’t, because the very essence of God contains a set of relationships.
Come on. Take some more people with you.