The place of community in the Christian life seems increasingly complicated for those of us living in the West. We don’t seem to really get it. Some seem to live as though they can do life as “just me and Jesus;” that our actions impact no one but ourselves and community is a nice-to-have, rather than an essential.
Chris Brauns wants to change that. In Bound Together, he shows us how all we are inextricably connected to one another (whether we like it or not) and all that entails for good and bad.
Brauns’ demonstrates this using what he calls the principle of the rope—”the simple truth that our lives, choices, and actions are linked to the lives, choices and actions of other people” (25). Understanding this principle is central, he argues, to truly grasping not only the Christian faith, but all of human history.
Think about all the different ways we’re affected by the decisions of others. You can probably come up with a list of ten things before you finish reading this, whether significant or fairly innocuous. That’s the principle of the rope in practice.
Scripturally we see this most explicitly shown in two places: The fall of man and redemption in Christ.
If we weren’t tied to Adam—if we were fully autonomous—then we would not be under his curse. We would be as free to sin or not sin as he was. And yet our experience clearly demonstrates this isn’t the case. Instead, we see that we are equally as sinful as Adam; that we choose to sin because of who we are; when Adam fell, he pulled us down with him.
The principle of the rope means that the decision that Adam made to rebel against God has left us in a desperate situation. We stand condemned as rebels excluded from God’s good future unless we are saved from our wretched condition. (50)
Likewise, we’re only rescued from our wretched condition by the work of another, one who pulls us up with Him—Jesus Christ.
Just as we have been united to Christ—roped to him in his sin and rebellion—so now we can be united to Christ—roped to him—and receive his freedom, forgiveness, and salvation from our sin [Rom. 5:19].… The cross cancels our solidarity with Adam and links us to Christ. (58)
This is exceptionally good news—news that makes the gospel make sense. The gospel only “works” if Christ represents us and brings us together in Him:
- Community only works as it should in Christ.
- Marriage only works to its fullest in Christ.
- Hope only truly exists in Christ.
Lasting joy is only found in Christ—and only truly experienced with one another. Why, oh why, do we neglect this essential aspect of the faith?
As Brauns fleshes out our union with Christ—the ultimate example of the principle of the rope—and it’s implications on life, marriage, death and the lost, he also is careful to make something exceptionally clear:
Our solidarity doesn’t negate personal responsibility. “A pervasive tendency to blame other people for his or her problems invades every area of a person’s life,” he writes. “It’s a form of spiritual cancer that is far more deadly than any physical cancer. Left untreated, it leads to a victim mentality and spiritual death” (79).
I so appreciate Brauns’ wise anticipation of the “yeah-buts” like this one—we want to say it’s her fault, as Adam did in the garden. We want to say the devil made me do it. But there is no excuse for any of us: we must take responsibility for our own decisions while also recognizing their impact on others.
It’s a difficult balance to achieve, especially for those of us living in the shadow of our culture’s radical individualism, but it’s something we ought to diligently strive for.
One of the trends I’ve been most thankful for in recent years has been a renewed emphasis on the importance of community in the Christian life—why it matters, how it impacts our walk and how we can do life together to the glory of God. Bound Together is a welcome addition in this renewed understanding of an essential truth: We are one body with many parts and we only work as we should when we’re together. I trust it will be a great encouragement to you as you read and apply it.
Title: Bound Together: How We Are Tied to Others in Good and Bad Choices
Author: Chris Brauns
Publisher: Zondervan (2013)
Buy it at: Amazon