- After this the Lord appointed seventy-two[a] others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.
While I was reading this passage the other day (actually listening to it on my iPod), I was struck by the fact that Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs. Two by two. It was a little thing, but it brought home to me how much we need each other in the battle we call the Christian life.
So many times, we try to do everything on our own. Not only do we try to do things without God, but we try to do them without another brother or sister. But Jesus didn't send the seventy-two out separately. He sent them out together. Because they needed each other.
How do we miss this? The scriptures are absolutely full of reminders of this.
- As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another.
- Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their work:
If one falls down,
his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls
and has no one to help him up!
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
Remember the story of David and Jonathan? Could they have done what they did alone? Or even the story of Jonathan and his armor-bearer battling the Philistines in 1 Samuel 14?
- Jonathan climbed up, using his hands and feet, with his armor-bearer right behind him. The Philistines fell before Jonathan, and his armor-bearer followed and killed behind him. In that first attack Jonathan and his armor-bearer killed some twenty men in an area of about half an acre.
1 Sam. 14:13-14
Jonathan didn't go it alone. He had his armor-bearer at his back.
The early Celtic Christians had a concept and a practice that we would do well to revive. They called it the Anam Cara. It means "soul friend." It actually stems from pre-Christian Celtic thought. Your soul friend was your teacher, companion, and guide. He (or she) was one to whom you could say anything. You could confess to him, lean on him, ask him advice, for help—anything. Your Anam Cara would hold you accountable, speak truth to you, even tell you the hard things that you really didn't want to hear, but needed to hear. It not an authoritarian relationship, but complementary. Usually one was older, wiser, more practiced in spirituality. But learning flowed both ways, accountability and truth were spoken and heard by both.
We all need an Anam Cara. We all need someone who can say anything to us, and receive anything we can say back. We need someone who knows us as well as we know ourselves, and probably better. We were never intended to go through this life alone. Isn't that just about the first thing God said about Adam? "It is not good for man to be alone." We need each other.
Usually, I suggest that men choose an Anam Cara from among men, and women from among women. That's not to say that our spouses cannot be our soul friends. Quite the contrary. But we need someone else who can see our relationships from the outside. Men need other men to stand with them. Women need other women. One of the problems with out society today is the lack of real friendships outside of romantic involvement. Especially for men.
When Jesus sent them out two by two, he knew exactly what he was doing. (Doesn't he always?)
Who is your Anam Cara?