During my husband's seminary days, I tried - with little success - to take up the hobby of crocheting. A few of my dear friends were great crocheters and made the most beautiful creations: colorful blankets, sweet baby hats, and cozy scarves. They made their work look easy as they twirled their crochet hook around the yarn, pulled it through a loop and then quickly repeated this process over and over again. They were so skilled at this art that the repetitive motion it required was, for them, somewhat of a leisurely activity. Their hook, yarn, and hands seemed to work together almost without conscious effort.
I, on the other hand, would have to sit there and laboriously wrap the thread around my hook (with it often coming unravelled and needing to be re-twirled). I'd then have to stop every few moments to ponder what the next step I needed to perform was, before attempting it. Finally I would ever so carefully pull my hook through the loop and, feeling like Napoleon after a successful conquest, move on to the next one. Often this process was performed with my tongue unconsciously sticking out of my mouth as I focused my full attention on the yarn that was determined to escape my hands.
It truly felt as if the yarn simply didn't want to be attached to my creation. It didn't want to fall in line with the other loops. The tool I was using - that terribly big hook - seemed so unnatural in my hand and would often end up catapulting itself across the room in revolt to my fumbling efforts. Getting a full row of loops attached to each other was a monumental accomplishment for me. So much so that I felt content to stop my adventures in the world of crocheting after about five successful (yet terribly crooked) rows.
When I read Paul's words in Colossians I am reminded of this painful experience. He says that he desires for Christians' hearts to be "knit together in love." He longs for the church to be a unified being that is functionally and emotionally connected. Elsewhere he uses the metaphor of a body to describe the church - each of us playing the role of different parts, but being absolutely necessary for the entire body to function properly. Our talents and gifts, he says, are given to us for the good of the whole church. They are not to bring glory to ourselves, but rather, are meant to be used to serve our brothers and sisters in Christ.
But being knit together into one unified being, isn't an easy task for sinners. Our natural tendency is to care more about our own individual needs being met by the church than for the Church's needs to be alleviated by our humble service. Nor do we easily bond with people who are unlike us - people whose odd quirks annoy us or whose background cultures are completely foreign and strange to us. Indeed, it is hard work to live in unity and be knit together because we are all so very different and we are all so very selfish.
Our sinful desires encourage us to act like rebellious yarn in an unskilled knitter's hands: unwilling to connect, unwilling to be a part of a whole. Rather than practicing the humility and service necessary to live in unity, we'd rather go our own way and do as we like. It's much easier to do so.
But God calls us to something higher and harder. He calls us to lay down our rights and likes and desires and preferences for the good of his church. He calls us to do so in love.
Be "knit together in love," Paul says in Colossians. We see this exhortation in 1 Corinthians as well. After speaking about the members of the body serving one another and using their gifts for the good of the whole, he explains that the only way to submit to the Spirit's dispersal of various gifts is to walk in love. Nothing - not the gift of prophecy, not the gift of tongues, not the gift of knowledge or faith - means anything of it is not practiced through love.
The practice - not the feeling - of love is what allows us to serve one another in humility and to bear with one another when we begin to feel as though we simple cannot stand a particular member of the body. It causes us to rejoice when the other parts of our body rejoice, and it causes us to mourn when the other members of our church mourn. Spirit-wrought love is the invisible glue that knits broken, rebellious sinners to one another.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we don't always love our church body, much less the individual members within it. We find it easy to love ourselves, but altogether unnatural to love those who are unlike us. Thankfully, there is something altogether unnatural occurring with in us.
We are indwelled by the Spirit of Love, himself.
God's love - that remarkable, holy, and altogether giving attribute - "has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5)." Incredible! This is what allows us to fight for unity. It is what gives us the ability to deny our self-serving tendencies. It is what knits us together as one body.
Our daily battle as members of Christ's church is to step aside and allow the Spirit of God to work through us. Our prayer must continually be for his love to eclipse and transform our natural selfishness. And we needn't fear that he will deny us. For he cares for his sheep and their well-being. He who died for us will not forget about us.
In the end, we rebellious loops of yarn are no match for his skillful hand. He will sanctify his church.
And so, just as our creator God knit each of us together in our mother's wombs, so too is he knitting us together as a church. Joyfully, we concede that he is the one holding the needles and we wait with great anticipation for the revealing of his masterpiece.
For he is the master of his craft.