Every summer, my family crammed into our 1989 Honda Accord and went on a tour through the Western United States. This car was legendary: it had a manual transmission, did not have working air conditioning, and had a notoriously “compact” interior. That compact interior only became more and more compact the more my brothers and I grew.

Every inch in that 1989 Honda Accord was precious real estate for my brothers and I to claim for ourselves – and the more we grew the more precious it became. Elbow jabs, punches, and wrestling were all on the table as valid strategies to get more precious room.

It is said that familiarity breeds contempt. I can testify that closeness can also do the same.

Whether it’s brothers in the family car, or families living in apartments, or roommates struggling to live well with each other – human beings become short, terse, and ungracious when we’re crowded together.

It was said that “Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together,” (Psalm 122:3). Left to our own human nature, that closeness only breeds conflict, resentment, frustration, and anger. Like the crowded alleyways of New York City or the bustling neighborhoods of Hong Kong, the streets of Jerusalem left little room for grace, harmony, and peace.

This is why the Psalmist calls upon all of us to pray for the “peace of Jerusalem,” (v. 6). Because it’s only by the Lord’s help that Jerusalem could hope to live in harmony that God desired for this “city of peace.”

The same can be true of us.

Gathering together in church means that we get close to one another – not just physically, but also emotionally, socially, and spiritually. This closeness can bring with it a lot of frustration, heartache, pain. I’ve often talked with people who find church intimidating for this very reason: we’d much rather have shallow relationships that don’t cut too close or deep because we’re afraid of what others might discover about us – or what we might discover about other people.

And yet, the closer we get to the Lord’s presence, the closer we also end up getting to the Lord’s people. For church, closeness is an inevitability, and conflict with one another is a strong possibility. May we be people who are vigilantly praying for the peace of our community, even as we continue to draw closer to the LORD’s presence.

Ryan Lunde
Young Adults

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