Karen Rees | @ICFWriters
Scripture: Hebrews 10:24-25
Banyan trees fascinate me. While they're common in tropical regions, I grew up in a dry semi-prairie part of the US. I met my first banyan tree as a missionary in Hong Kong.
In some ways the banyan reminds me of the community of believers that formed the early church. Like the early church, the tree starts out insignificant. But just as the church grew until it spread throughout the Roman Empire, a single banyan can grow into a whole grove of trees.
The banyan does this using aerial prop roots. When a tree is mature, its spreading branches produce hundreds of these roots. Some grow until they reach the ground. There, they anchor themselves and develop into new trunks.
Imagine numerous branches with numerous dangling roots that in turn produce more trunks and branches with more dangling roots. Over time you have a whole grove of banyan trees all connected to each other.
That again remind me of the church. In Christ, we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. (Rom. 12:5) The 'one another' verses describe the ways we're to live out this connection.
We're to love one another (1 John 3:11), encourage one another and build each other up (1 Thes 5:11), carry one another's burdens (Gal 6:2), instruct one another (Rom 15:14), serve one another in love (Gal 5:13), confess our sins to each other and pray for one another (James 5:16), forgive one another (Eph 4:32), offer hospitality to one another (1Pet 4:9), and spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Heb 10:24)
Sadly, since the church is made up of imperfect people like myself, church life can get messy. This can cause people to cut their ties with it. Or, just as unwisely, never establish any. They decide that all they need is 'God and me'. When they do this, sooner or later they learn a hard lesson.
It's the same lesson the Hong Kong government learned. The aerial prop roots don't just produce a banyan grove. They grow into trees that prop up the heavy branches from which they came. Remove those props and you've got problems.
The popular tourist section of Nathan Road has a row of century old banyan trees between the street and a wide sidewalk. With no convenient place for the prop roots to anchor, for many years the government periodically gave the roots a 'hair cut'. But that didn't stop those big heavy branches from continuing to grow bigger and heavier.
In recent years some of those branches have come crashing down onto whoever happened to be passing beneath just then. Sometimes the results were deadly.
To prevent more fatal accidents, the government now props up the branches of dangerous trees. For others, they've created plots of ground where the prop roots can anchor and eventually provide the support the branches need.
Christians who decide that it's just 'God and me' eventually find the weight of life's hardships and its loneliness more than they can bear. When they don't have the loving support of other Christians, sooner or later, like a banyan branch, they'll come crashing down.
The writer of Hebrews knew the value of remaining an active part of a church family. We need that connection. We need those prop roots. We need to be prop roots for others.
How has your community of believers helped you? How have you helped them?
Bio: Karen Rees exchanged life as a farmer's daughter for SE Asian “big city” life when she and her husband began mission work in Hong Kong. They've worked with local Chinese, household servants imported from the Philippines and Tamil asylum seekers from Sri Lanka.
As a result she's eaten chicken's feet, baby octopus cooked in its own ink, barbecued pig's ear and several other delicacies that she didn't ask about.
Karen is the mother of two and grandmother of three, an avid reader, quilter, lover of history and an author of historical fiction set during the English Reformation.
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