The closest biblical phrase that comes to my mind in regards to the feel good phrase of “doing life together” is found in Psalm 133:1 –
How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!
The word live in this verse is actually translated dwell which reveals the type of commitment it takes for the doing of life together. The Hebrew word for dwell is yashab meaning to sit down together, to remain, to settle, to abide, to ease self, endure, establish and tarry. These are words that our countercultural to our everyday life. Our hearts long for community, yet our lives reflect a very different thing. Instead of sitting, we are running to the next thing. Instead of remaining, we are looking for a way out. We don’t abide, we disconnect. We are hard on ourselves when community isn’t coming easily. We want to give up and uproot in our impatience, but if you want to do life meaningfully together, you have to learn the discipline of dwelling.
The psalmist then proceeds to tell us this “living together in unity” is like the “precious oil” used in the ceremony of anointing a high priest. It is in this simile that we find the simplicity and the reality of what it really means to do life together.
Doing life together is like precious oil. The Message bible says it this way, “It’s like costly anointing oil.” Doing life together will cost you your convenience, specifically your time. In our culture the most valuable commodity is our time. Most people I talk to today talk more about not having enough time than they do about not having enough money. The anointing oil was precious and for many of us so is our time. Doing life together, like the anointing of a high priest, requires us to pour out our most precious resource that we like to preserve. Yet, even before the pouring there is a producing of this oil I want to dig into.
A decade ago I was preaching Psalm 133 and discovered in my study that there was quite a process behind the production of this precious oil. If you want want something that is precious you are going to have go through the process. Doing life together is a process that produces something God says is good and pleasant!
First, olives had to be gathered by hand or shaken off the tree. Know that you have been hand picked to be involved in the community that God currently has you a part of. Yes, for some of us God has had to shake some things up to get us where we are at, but the point I strongly want to emphasize is God gathered you and everyone around you for a purpose. You didn’t choose your community, God chose you and placed you in the community. When we understand this truth we understand the importance of dwelling together so that we can experience doing life together.
Second, the olive berries had to be pressed. To make oil, the olive berry was either bruised in a mortar, crushed in a press loaded with wood and stones, ground a in mill, or trodden with feet. If you want something that is precious, meaningful, valuable and greatly loved you are going to be pressed, bruised, grounded and stepped on with others and by others. I know this isn’t the fun part of the process but God puts us together with all types of people and presses us to unify us and produce something common that is useful not just for the community, but those outside it.
Lastly, the process produces something that is priceless. Interestingly enough the pressing process produced one type of oil that was used for a lot of different things such as cooking, cosmetics, ceremonies, medicine, lighting and offerings. I love this because to me this is what emerges from different people committed to dwelling and doing life together with all the difficulties that come with it. We are pressed on purpose for many different purposes and together we produce a precious oil that when poured out feeds the hungry (cooking), releases beauty for ashes (cosmetics), and oil of joy for mourning (ceremonies), brings healing to the nations (medicine), light to a dark world (lighting) and a lifestyle of worship (offering) no matter where we are pouring our lives out. It is here where God commands the blessing.
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—Life forevermore. (Ps. 133:3)
For me olives alone are just kind of blah. I buy a can of black olives for 89 cents and in my opinion you get what you pay for. However, if you pay a little more you can get greek olives that have some other tasty ingredients like salt, red wine vinegar, and garlic. When it comes to dwelling together and doing life together you get what you’re willing to pay for. Personally I don’t want to be an ordinary olive berry. I want to do extraordinary things as God gathers ordinary people for His purposes. It doesn’t come without a process and their is a price to pay, but this is what it really means to do life together.