What is the point of organised religion? What good does faith do for a person, or indeed for the world? Apart from the whole ‘going to heaven when you die’ thing, what good does it actually serve here on earth?
One part of the answer is that it binds people together. People who are freed from their bondage to sin (and therefore to ‘self’) find themselves able and willing to love others in a new, strong, radical way. Any group striving together for a common goal has this to a certain extent, but those who are committed to loving and serving one another consistently exhibit greater resilience in tight spots.
In Dimitri Panin’s book (to which I have referred before), The Notebooks of Sologdin, the author identifies a key tactic of the secret service:
[They] understood very well that only people bound together in association are capable of putting up resistance; therefore they are intent on uprooting religion; therefore their greatest efforts are directed at suppressing organisation of all kinds and at isolating the individual.
Individuals might be very happy in times of peace and ease, doing things their own way, going about their business unencumbered by negotiation and compromise and surrender. But when trouble comes, he has no support structure, so is easy to destroy.
The writer of Ecclesiastes uses the example of a piece of thread to illustrate this:
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. (Ecc. 4:10)
As Jesus faced his approaching arrest and death, he prayed for his disciples – and for all his future followers (including us) – not for wealth, not for influence, not for power, but for unity. Love and unity give us strength and power, and are an incontestable witness to others of the transformation only God can bring about.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.