What does this word mean? Why does it denote what a Christian can do to please the Lord? All of these questions can be answered by a simple study of the church and its member’s obligations. Cooperation sums up the way in which a person can fulfill his duty as a child of the Almighty because without it there would be no “work of the church” with which to be involved! After all, if one wishes to be involved in the work of the church, and we all should be if we are seeking to be faithful to the Lord, he must have certain aspects of cooperation that are evident in his life. You see the church is only working in so far as its members are working. Many times we see the church as this entity apart from the Christians which make up the church, and sadly that is not the way God set it to be. No matter the age of the Christian, it is his responsibility, yea it is his only purpose in this life, to be faithful to the work of the Lord, and thereby be faithful to the work of the church. What are some ways in which cooperation will allow the individual seeking after the righteousness of Christ (Mat. 6:33) to stay involved no matter the age?
Cooperation With Brethren
In Love – I have often wondered, although never taken the time to actually apprehend, how many times in the New Testament alone this idea or concept is taught. I can think of no less than ten passages of divine Scripture which portray or command the love of true brethren. It is remarkable how much more involved a brother will be in the work of the church if he knows that his brethren love him. But, there is to be reciprocity in that love! One cannot expect the brethren to love him if he is not willing to extend the same godly feeling toward those from which he seeks to receive such love. The Hebrews writer summed this up nicely when he wrote, by inspiration I might add, that the love of brethren, that close, compassionate, and caring love seen in two people who are as if they are physical brothers, is to continue throughout time (Heb. 13:1) I can think of no better way for a Christian to stay involved in the work of the church than to cooperate with his brethren through extending the love which God has placed in the relationship.
In Learning – The church is often referred to as the family of God in Scripture (Eph. 2:19), and that is absolutely fitting, although that is not to say that just because I perceive it to be true then it is, after all the Spirit inspired it to be called such. In families, there is to be a learning which is prevalent. Husbands are commanded by God to “dwell with them (wives) according to knowledge.” That is to say that the husband is to study his wife as if she were a science and he is attempting to ascertain all that is his wife. How does a husband and wife relationship relate to the cooperation between brethren? Paul wrote to the church at Galatia that they, and all Christians, were/are to “restore (help)” a brother who is overtaken in some type of sinful activity. Let me ask a simple question, “How is one to help his brother out of a sin if he has no idea that the brother is in that sin?” Paul also wrote to the Roman brethren that Christians are to help our brethren in times and situations in which that brother or sister has a problem of conscience, often called a “scruple.” Now, if one is to do that, and of course he is, then there needs to be a cooperation between brethren in so much as we are to know our brothers and learn them so we can help them in their walks, which is one of the works of the church (cf. Heb. 10:24).
In Leading – As we have already noticed, there is to be a learning so as to help our brethren, but that learning is not enough. It is not adequate to understand that our brother has a need or a problem in his spirituality or life without any attempt to help him in that. Every Christian should see himself as a role model to his brethren. That is not to say that he should allow himself to become haughty in his interactions with brothers and sisters in Christ, but that he should be willing to allow them to see his life and that they should be able to ascertain how a Christian ought to live in doing so. Paul was a wonderful Christian, preacher, and teacher, but he, as so many of us do, had those which were against him. In fact, he would write two books to a church which was being afflicted by people speaking out against this man of God (1 & 2 Corinthians). It is interesting to read those books and realize how many times Paul uses himself as an example (cf. 1 Cor. 11:1) or how many times he states that the brethren knew him and could see a Christian life exemplified in him (2 Cor. 3:1-6, 1:8-11, 4:8-18). Christians ought to have that same aspect of cooperation which proclaims, “Let us work together, and follow me, because I will try my absolute hardest to help you get to Heaven.”
Cooperation With God
In Listening – I remember it well. I was standing right beside my best friend on the 50 yard line of the football field of a neighboring high school. The year was 2007 and I and my friend were the section leaders of the trumpet line for the Arab High School Marching Band. Being what you may call “less” than mature and being a trumpet player, my friend and I “took up” the note at the end of the song (meaning we played the note at a higher pitch, this one being an entire octave higher). As we left the field after our show and were jubilant that we were “so amazing” the band director was headed straight for us. When he reached us he exclaimed, “You didn’t listen to me one bit!” You see, he had told my friend and I to never take that note up an octave during the show. We heard him, we just didn’t “listen.” When a Christian listens to God it is different than simply hearing, or even understanding, what He has to say (cf. Rom. 10:17) but it is following the words which proceeded from his mouth (Mat. 7:21-22, cf. 4:4). If one is to stay involved in the work of the church he must then hear, understand, and act out the commands of the Almighty. How would one be able to be involved with the work if he has no knowledge of what that work entails? In listening to God, we are cooperating with Him to further His Kingdom and His commands.
In Love – Remember the reciprocity of love between brethren that must be present in the relationship between brethren? The reason for that is because the Lord is the foundation of love (1 John 4:7-8) and the Christian is simply a human who has taken on the name of Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27) and therefore lives a life which is in line with the Christ’s. It is, therefore, absolutely paramount that there be reciprocity in the love between the Christian and his Father. Ephesians 6:1-3 speaks of the command to the son to “honor” his father and mother. That word literally means to put the object to which it is being directed on a pedestal, to make it/him/her the object of affection, respect, and reverence. Christians are to do just that to the Heavenly Father, if it is to be done to the physical father. John wrote that the reason for a Christians loving the Father in Heaven is because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). That is remarkable to think about when the same man wrote the most quoted, translated, and memorized verse in all of the Bible, John 3:16, which shows the love of God in giving His only begotten son for the salvation of mankind. The only way one will stay involved in the work of the church, despite the age, is to love the Lord!
In Lucidity – What does the word “lucid” mean? Well, it means to be able to see things clearly, rationally, and logically. It is the case that the human mind will never be able to understand the complexities of our God, but there is something very interesting when thinking about this. God created man “in His image” that is to say with aspects of Him built inherently into the man (Gen. 1:27). Have you ever thought that the only reason why we have the ability to think rationally is because an everlasting God who set the world and us the way we are created us? It is what separates us from the animal kingdom. How does this have anything to do with staying involved in the work of the church? It’s simple. We have to look at the church and its work logically and rationally just as God does. God has not given the church any work or responsibility that is impossible for her to enact. Many of us ask the questions which we discussed at the outset of this study, “What can I do?” and “I am only one person, how can I ever get all of this done?” Would you like to know how? By understanding that God is the originator of all of this work and that he is not going to give us an assignment to which we are to listen if there is no way to carry it out. I understand that the work of the church seems difficult, and it is, but I am convinced that the reason so many brethren fail to be involved in the church is because they think that it is “too hard” or “impossible.” But, it isn’t! If we cooperate with our Brethren and with God there is nothing that can stop us!
So, the only way to stay involved is to cooperate. It may seem like there are other aspects to staying involved, and there are, but the top priority must be the mindset of, “I will not give up on my brethren, or my God, because there is no other way for me to please my Lord and be with Him one day.”