Behold, how good and pleasant it is
when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down on the beard,
on the beard of Aaron,
running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion!
For there the Lord has commanded the blessing,
Our last Psalm delved into thoughts of keeping passion is spite of routine. I think it is important to see this Psalm in light of this context as well. We are deep into a journey and the end is near. What keeps us fresh and energetic?
I think NEWNESS is as important in this Psalm as UNITY. We see both of these in this short but important song.
The image of oil running from the head of Aaron has multiple applications. This was the annointing oil that set apart the priests for their ministry. Imagine the newness and excitement of the occasion commemorating the start of such an endeavor- smiles and energy, hope and anticipation of what lay ahead!
The oil softened and, as the sun beamed down, warmed the recipient. Having oil was symbolic of grand provision, using it was a mark of great celebration!
The same metaphor applies to the 'dew of Hermon'. On this high mountain peak, the dew was pervasive and fresh. I imagine again, sun beams, shining through the wispy smoke of dew clouds. It is a fresh new day! Everything is alive and the anticipation of what lay ahead is electric!
So what could kindle and refresh us in such a way that we have the excitement and energy of newness so late in the journey? It is the youthful energy that comes from RICH RELATIONSHIPS!
"How good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell together in unity!"
I just finished my 21st year as a high school football coach and I already yearn for the beginning of year 22. What has sustained my passion to continue to draw it up and dig in yet again? It is the people I get to labor with.
There is no better time as a coach than right after a fun win. Good food and big laughter. Smiles and high fives, hugs and fist pumps. But it is also built upon the experience of hurts and losses. We suffer together and we need one another to muster the courage to get up and try again.
Is it easy to 'dwell together in unity'? And the obvious answer is NO! Our default mode as humans is to dwell by ourselves and we divide more easily than join together. We splinter and become frayed more readily than we mend and stand as one.
I wanted to list some key components about what it takes to find a healthy unity among men:
DEEP GOSPEL AWARENESS AND APPLICATION: It took the gospel going deep into my heart before I found a heart to love and forgive others. It starts with a true understanding of my depravity. If I hold a high view of myself, it is easy to count shortcomings of others against them.
But the gospel constantly represents three important realities: my desperate sin, God's gracious gift, and the recognition that since God has forgiven me, I should forgive others.
BEARING WITH: I had a call from a coach years ago who was working with our younger grades. I listened for about 20 minutes as he listed all the things that frustrated him about a coach he was working with. It was an impressive list! These two were not alike and it was a textbook definition of 'personality clash'.
The hardest part of the call was that there was no easy solution. It was too critical in the timing of a season to slash and re-arrange who coached where. These two were going to have to be together. Was there any way to reach the 'dwell in unity' threshold?
The only hope was that both of these men knew the Lord.
So I asked this coach to meet with me and set out a plan of action:
Step 1- Scripture and Prayer. I asked this coach to spend one week meditating on Colossians 3:- especially the 13th verse.
1If then you have been raised with Christ, seek cthe things that are above, where Christ is, dseated at the right hand of God. 2 eSet your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For fyou have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ gwho is your1 life happears, then you also will appear with him iin glory.
5 jPut to death therefore kwhat is earthly in you:2 lsexual immorality, impurity, mpassion, evil desire, and covetousness, nwhich is idolatry. 6 oOn account of these the wrath of God is coming.3 7 pIn these you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now qyou must put them all away:ranger, wrath, malice, sslander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 tDo not lie to one another, seeing that uyou have put off vthe old self4 with its practices 10 and whave put on xthe new self, ywhich is being renewed in knowledge zafter the image of aits creator. 11 bHere there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave,5 free; but Christ is call, and in all.
12 dPut on then, as eGod's chosen ones, holy and beloved, fcompassionate hearts, gkindness, hhumility, meekness, and patience, 13 hbearing with one another and, iif one has a complaint against another, gforgiving each other; gas the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on jlove, which kbinds everything together in lperfect harmony. 15 And let mthe peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called nin one body. And obe thankful. 16 Let pthe word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom,qsinging psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, rwith thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And swhatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, tgiving thanks to God the Father through him.
I also asked that he pray for this other coach and his family everyday.
Step 3- This next step was important, and hard. The two needed to have a conversation. I felt like it was important for me to NOT be in that conversation to begin with. But did tell this coach that he needed to use me as a peacemaker IF the initial conversation went poorly.
I suggested he open up the conversation this way: "We are going to be working together in stressful situations, so I feel like we need to talk about strategies to help us be as unified as we can be. So let us talk about our strengths and weaknesses and imagine what the chemistry of that dynamic may look like".
I got a call the next week and the meeting was a huge success. The biggest key was that this coach was willing to roll up his sleeves and make an effort. I praised him for that and the two had a nice season together. They were not going to be 'best buds' but they could be unified. Unity is not unanimity.
PULL IN THE QUILLS: I was once told that porcupines can sleep together because they pull in their quills. Part of dwelling together in unity is a conscious decision to not be offensive. We don't have to push those buttons that create dissension.
ALL I CAN CONTROL IS ME: Often, our desire to dwell together in unity is a contingency plan. I will get along if he.........________. No- it does not work that way. We have to decide that we will do right REGARDLESS if the other person notices or tries. I think a key to this is to see this as service to the Lord. HE SEES! Give yourself to acts of unity and don't give up, even if it doesn't seem to be working.
THE IMPOSSIBLE FORGIVE: Two stories that will forever have impact on my life deal with P.O.W.s in WWII who endured brutal treatment by the Japanese. Both Ernest Gordon and Louis Zamperini drew upon their Christian faith and found forgiveness toward their torturers.
I was told that the father of Jim Elliot went to the jungles of Equador to forgive the indians who had murdered his son.
And yet, as I write this, I still find myself fighting to forgive others who have wronged me. It is hard to pray for them. It is easy to harbor angry thoughts.
But it is so important to do right in this case. Forgiveness ultimately protects my heart from the destruction that bitterness can cause.
My willingness to forgive is fruit that I have rightly embraced the truth of the gospel. To fight forgiveness means that I don't appreciate what Jesus did for me. That is why Jesus so clearly states in Matthew 6:15 But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.
The beauty of this Psalm is that if we make these virtues a habit and a trend- we will find a youthful vigor in life as we draw energy from the community of believers who dwell together in unity.
Lord, give us a renewed effort to find such harmony!