We were entering a campground in Eden, a small town on the southeast coast of New South Wales in Australia, when we first heard, in the air all around us, the silvery tolling of tiny bells. When we looked around, however, there were no bells to be seen…
I asked the lady at the campground reception about the source of the silvery sound. She rolled her eyes in response, and her one-word answer dripped with disgst: “bellbirds!”
Ever since we landed on this beautiful continent, finding new sorts of Australian birds had become a bit of a hobby, and my interest was pricked. I was especially excited, later that day, to have the privilege to seeing and photographing the little “carillons” as they flitted about, feeding in the local gum trees and sending forth their incessant silvery calls.
Once back in our rented cabin, I looked the bellbird up on the internet, and I was immediately inspired by what I learned…
The bellbird lives in colonies, yet despite the fact that the colonies tend to be large, there are general only 3-4 pairs of birds that are nesting. The non-breeding colony members will apparently spend their days assisting the breeding pairs by gathering food and helping to raise the young! I couldn’t help wondering how different our local churches might be if we took some lessons from these creatures. What would happen if we all banded together? Rather than looking out only for ourselves and our own advancements and happiness, what if we were to spend our time helping our fellow brothers and sisters? What if we were to bring each other food? Help each other with the raising of our children? Be there to comfort and encourage each other in our troubles?
Wait. I’m being a bit idealistic, aren’t I? We are far too busy with our own lives to give of ourselves to each other all the time. And besides, is it really all that important anyway?
One look at Jesus’ famous pastoral prayer would firmly answer this question…
The evening before His arrest, Jesus’ prayer revealed what was nearest and dearest to His heart. Isn’t it interesting that one of the major themes of His prayer is none other than unity in the church? “Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.” (John 17:11 NLT). It is said that when God is really trying to hit a point home, He repeats Himself; and Jesus went on to pray for unity in the church three other times in the same prayer (see vs.21,22,23)! Shouldn’t this speak to us about the importance of unity? Of taking care of one another? Of being one, just like Jesus and the Father are one? Just imagine what this might look like in the church!
How do we achieve this unity?
It all begins with unselfish love. We need to love one another as Christ loved the church. He put aside His own ambitions to come to this earth, to die on a cruel cross, all because He loves us that much (See2 Cor. 8:9). Just like most of the bellbirds in a colony must put aside their own ambitions so that they can help each other, we must also put aside our own desires and plans in order to help one another.
But wait. There are bellbirds who do not put aside their own ambitions. Remember that there are usually 3-4 breeding pairs in each colony!
In the same way, we will find that just as there are seasons for helping others, there is also a season for receiving help from others. What this means for us is that our primary focus needs to be on the unselfish giving of our time, our talents and our resources to help our fellow brothers and sisters; but when the time comes when find ourselves in need, we can be sure that God will also provide for that need!
Let’s take lessons from the bellbird. Let’s put aside our personal ambitions in order to be able to reach out and help one another. Let’s strive to be the church that Jesus prayed for just before He went to the cross. Let’s strive to live together in unity and love…
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head…It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” (Ps. 133:1-3 NIV)
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.
(To access the entire “The Bellbird” mini-series, please clickhere.)