Closer Than A Sister, Week 2

By STEFANIE BENNETT | CONTRIBUTOR

Week 2: Closer Than a Sister

Part 2a: Living With Sisters in Community, Chapters 4-6 (pp. 65-102)

Recalling the beautiful and communal nature of our Triune God and our design as bearers of this image, as Fox illustrated in last week’s readings, we are now compelled to act—to help our sisters, mourn with them, and rejoice together. It is a beautiful image, and one we have felt the benefits of many times. Women abounding in the love and unity of the Father have brought us a kind word, a warm meal, a meaningful exhortation– and we are better for it.

Drawing from Timothy P. Lane and Paul David Tripp’s Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, Fox connects our insights from last week to compel us toward action in these next three chapters: “When you and I serve, we are living out what God has made us to be: servants. It is when we are serving that were are most like the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit redeemed a fallen world through service and sacrifice. There is nothing more God-like than serving others” (qtd. in Fox, 71).

Sisters Help Each Other (Chapter 4)

And yet… we are often hesitant to help others. Why is that? Fox proposes an answer: because it takes sacrifice (71). Helping others is a sacrifice of time and resources. But Fox also invokes Bonhoeffer to give us some perspective:

We must allow ourselves to be interrupted by God [ . . .] It is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God” (qtd in Fox, 72).

And certainly humility is needed when we find ourselves in a position of need as well. Because dogged determination and independence are prized in our culture, we can sometimes feel ashamed when it comes to asking for help. But in reality, the entirety of our faith runs counter-cultural. “We weren’t made to be autonomous. We were created to be dependent upon God and mutually dependent upon others in the Body of Christ” (Fox, 74).

Sisters Mourn Together (Chapter 5)

And the reality of our need for God and other believers is never more glaring than in our grief.

But, oh, the comfort of knowing our sweet Savior who is not only acquainted with all our grief, but who grieves with us even as he binds up our wounds.

Indeed, Fox reminds us:

  • Christ knew loss as he mourned at the graveside of his dear friend Lazarus.
  • He knew rejection because those from his own hometown attempted to kill him (Luke 4:29).
  • He knew hunger and loneliness.
  • He knew abandonment when his closest friends fled just when He needed them the most.
  • He knew deep sorrow as He thought about the horror that awaited Him at the cross [ . . .] (Fox, 78, emphasis mine).

But this we also know:

“[T]he God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, [ . . .] comforts us in our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too” (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

How is it that we are able to sit in the dust with our sisters and mourn with them, even when it feels unnatural and uncomfortable to do so? Christ.

How is it that we can listen intently and empathetically to our sister’s hurts without the need to “fix” or rescue her? Christ.

How is it we can speak encouragement and Gospel truth to a sister who cannot see her sweet Savior in her season of sadness? Christ.

Fox assures us that as we renew our minds in the water of the Word, we gain wisdom and surety about what we should do when our sister in Christ is suffering.

Sisters Rejoice Together (Chapter 6)

In some ways, however, it may be easier to genuinely grieve with a sister than rejoice with her. Fox explains that rejoicing with our sisters “means we ought to have joy for what God is doing in [her life]. Yet sometimes, such joy is hard, especially when the blessing in our sister’s life reminds us of the blessing we think is missing in our own life” (94-95).

Is it any wonder, then, that Fox spends the majority of the chapter addressing our disordered desire to envy others and begrudge them the good they have received? She points us to James to address the issue:

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:1-3).

If we are to have any hope of countering this propensity toward envy, it will be by embracing the selfless love that the Father has modeled for us– one that “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13: 7). And further, “as we seek to find our contentment in Christ, our sister’s joy becomes our joy [ . . .] for we know that she is united to us as we are united to Christ. The good that happens in her life is also our good and vice versa” (Fox, 101-102, emphasis mine).

And if, like me, by the end of these chapters, you are still feeling woefully weak and inadequate for the roles set before us to help, mourn, and rejoice well with our sisters, perhaps you will also join me in looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, who encourages us with His word:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1: 5).

May we be encouraged by our good God, who both calls and equips his daughters for good works that He prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them! (Ephesians 2:10)

 

Closer Than a Sister, Week 1

 

By STEFANIE BENNETT|CONTRIBUTOR

 

Week 1: Closer Than a Sister, Part 1: Chapters 1-3 (pp. 23-61)

We have many “shoulds” in our lives—

should go to church.

should join a Bible study.

should spend time getting to know other women.

But we have all seen the long-term effects of acting on “shoulds” without having a proper foundation and motivation for doing them—we burn out, give up, or become disillusioned.

The Triune Community

That is why our first session of Christina Fox’s Closer Than a Sister, which covered Part 1 (chapters 1-3), is so purposeful. If we are to seek, serve, and savor Christian community with our sisters, we cannot get there through self-compulsion and “shoulds.” Instead, this desire flows from a woman who relishes God’s design for a life of community as she sees it reflected and perfected in the triune Godhead.

We see from the beginning that the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) “is one of self-giving love, each one delighting in, adoring, honoring, and treasuring one another” likewise “united as one, infinitely dear, and incomprehensible, and mutual eternal love” (Fox, 25; c.f. John 10:30; John 16:13-14; John 17:5, 26). Oh Christian, what a profound community!

The Abiding Community

Perhaps the most beautiful and magnificent reality is that God is complete and content in and of himself, abiding in perfect community from before the foundation of the world. He had no need for us. And yet… oh, how he loves! How he invites us in to such a community by calling us to abide in Him and with his people. It is a profound privilege.

Indeed, abiding in Christ gives us everything we need for life and godliness (cf. John 15:1-6; 2 Peter 1:3). “We receive our spiritual life and health from our union in Christ,” and we must continue to draw from this well-spring if we are to love others in the fulfilling, selfless, life-giving way Christ modeled for us (Fox, 41-42; c.f. John 15:1-6). Abiding in Christ will produce fruitful, fragrant lives of love and fellowship that reflect the very image in which we were created. “As we seek to love and serve our sisters in Christ and they in turn love and serve us, we are living out our union with Christ. We are reflecting the triune community” (Fox).

The Nourished Community

But, Sisters, less we think that this community is held together by our sheer will-power to love and serve, let us continually remind ourselves that Christ is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (c.f. Hebrews 12:2). He is the covenant-initiator and covenant-keeper. Community takes work. We are easily distracted. We are prone to forgetfulness. We forget who we are and whose we are. We forget (or ignore) that we were made for community (Fox). Here, too, our Christ has provided a way, because “the glorious truth of the Gospel is that our union with Christ is not contingent upon our grasp of Christ but of His grasp of us” (Fox, 60). Therefore, our union with Christ nourishes and transforms us to live out our design in the context of community, not just because we have a glorious, perfect example, but also because we continually drink from the living water that compels us to dwell well in the community for which we were made.

Note from Jana

Sisters,

My heart overflows with joy in anticipation of gathering together with you next Wednesday to delve into this little gem of a book on Christian friendship.

In Closer Than A Sister, Christina Fox explores the relationships we have with our sisters in Christ with an emphasis on those relationships within the local church. During our short five-week study, we will look at the rich theological foundations for friendship, several commands in the New Testament showing the early church what Christian friendship should look like, and finish up with a look at the challenges that work against our nurture and growth in the local church through these relationships.

Please read Part I: A Community of Faith (pages 23-61), looking over the questions at the end of chapters 1 – 3, so that you will be prepared for our discussion on July 11. As we join together each week to discuss and fellowship, my prayer and hope for you can be stated no better than our author did in her introduction to the book.

“My hope for you, dear reader, is that after reading this book you will desire to know and be known by your church community. I hope that you will see that you need Christian friendships and they need you as well. I hope that you will seek to deepen your friendships in your church and that such relationships would shine a light, reflecting Christ to the world.”

 

For His glory and His bride,

Jana Henry

 

Complete study schedule is in the menu at the top.