C.S Lewis’ book Mere Christianity which means Christianity plain and simple (or “simples” as our meerkat friends would say) is considered to be a classic of Christian apologetics and was originally adapted from a series of BBC radio talks broadcast during the war years.
The current BBC documentary series Meerkat Manor follows a small group of meerkats as they struggle for survival in the hostile and uniquely challenging environment of the Kalahari Desert in Southern Africa.
All the members of the Meerkat group appear to adopt very clearly defined roles and duties and rely on cooperation and teamwork to ensure their survival against the many obstacles and threats that they face on a daily basis. Meerkats may not be as fast moving, powerfully built or well armed as many of their predators, yet they continue to survive and prosper simply because they work together more effectively than almost any other species.
Are there lessons we can learn from the Meerkats about the importance of working together in a close community?
Growing in grace and functioning as part of a Christian community should be aspects of our Christian experience that are closely interconnected. Christian communities should be seen as family units in which members are able to express themselves in participation, loving relationships, shared experiences, and through the contribution of spiritual gifts.
Given their small size and delicate frame, a solitary meerkat would appear to be an easy prey. So what is it that makes the meerkats so successful? The answer is simple (or “simples”) - they cooperate and look out for each other.
Individual members of the group learn to specialize in one of a number of very specific tasks, such as guard duty, babysitting the young, distributing and sharing food and, although each member dutifully fulfils his or her specific role, they are relieved of their duties by other group members during mealtimes. As many of these duties can be extremely exhausting and demanding, the willingness of other members to share in the labour is a sign of just how caring, protective and cohesive the community is.
The caring and cooperative behaviour of the Meerkats carries important lessons for us and for our local church communities. When we come to faith in Christ, we not only enter into a relationship with him, but with every other believer. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4) NIV.
It’s that simples.