Sometimes I find it really difficult to get along with other people. Usually, those I am trying to work with have an unspoken agenda that drives their choices. That agenda can be rooted in their past experiences, in past or current hurts, or in selfish desire–things that may have nothing to do with the task at hand. It seems everyone else sees the world a little differently than I do, or maybe I am the one who sees it from a different perspective. Put a couple of dozen, or a couple of hundred or more, people like me together in a church, and the ‘fun’ really begins.
I live in a divided Christian world, but Jesus’ desire was that we would be united as His Body. I have heard it said that He bestows unity upon us and that it is our responsibility to maintain it. Whether I think we craft unity or merely maintain it, I know we fail miserably at unity. And I see a Christian community that seems quite content with the status quo of division.
“‘I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those who believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.'” John 17:20-23
My testimony to the world of the One who sent Jesus is made plain by how well I reflect the glory, that is, the praiseworthiness, of Jesus as I participate in the unity of His Church. No matter how I witness about Him in any other way, I must play a part in and be committed to the unity of God’s people in order to show the world Who sent Jesus, Who loves us, Who loves Him. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are one, unified for all eternity. How well I love and take care of my family in Christ is a direct reflection of His glory in me. If I participate in, encourage or put up with division in His Body, His Church, then I have no part in His unity.
The word ‘judgmental’ gets thrown around quite a bit whenever a discussion of unity occurs. I find it interesting that those who use it to brand others are indeed exercising the very thing they rail against. I am very happy to leave the word alone and talk about the real problem: We don’t love each other the way God intends, the way He loves His Son, the way He loves us.
I, like most of the human race, think of love in warm, emotional fuzzies. In my post, “Is It Love?,” I talk about what real love is. How I feel about someone should have no bearing on how I love them. If only I could figure out how to separate my actions from my feelings!
“Do nothing from selfishness or vain conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own interests, but also for the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3, 4
Separate my feelings of selfishness and conceit from the workings of my mind. Choose to treat my Christian siblings as more important than myself. When my sister in Christ and I disagree, what does love demand that I do? Think of her as more important than me, according to Paul. Be humble in my mind, consider and protect her eternal best interests as much as my own. To love my sister, it must cost me something. Defer to her need for understanding, compassion, and consideration. Refuse to create a stone of stumbling for her. Suppress my own wants, even needs, to make sure she has what she needs to be whole and part of the unity of the Spirit in Christ. I should be falling all over myself to maintain the unity between and through us.
“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just to please ourselves. Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, for his edification.” Romans 15:1, 2
I have yet to meet the fellow Christian who wants to be thought of as weak, including myself. Convinced of my opinion, I feel strong, I feel right. My feelings shouldn’t matter. How I treat my brother with whom I disagree is what matters. If I treat him well, I reflect the glory of Christ and promote unity within the Spirit. If I treat him poorly, negligently, running rough shod over him in my zeal to advance what I think and what I want, I trash unity by tearing apart what should be most precious to me–the Body of Christ.
“So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.” Colossians 3:12-15
At the end of time, when I am before Christ answering for my life on earth, what do I want to be able to say to Him? Do I want to say that I used my God-given talents to make sure everyone who called themselves Christian towed the line? Or, would I rather be able to say to Him that I led His people in righteous living by my example and did everything I could to preserve and strengthen the unity of His Body?
I can’t make anyone else do what God would have him do. I can, however, demonstrate in my own life a righteous walk that shows others how to walk more closely with God. I can love my church family, the Body of Christ, His hands and His feet on this earth, so much that I lay down my life for their spiritual well-being. No agenda I might want to advance is worth alienating even one of my spiritual siblings. When I teach, I can teach only truth. When I serve, I can serve with only love. When I walk, I can walk only in the Light, in an attitude of repentance and out of a desire to be faithful to the One who has always been faithful to me.
Christ’s Body, the manifestation of it on this earth, His Church, is the most precious blessing we have been given. I do not want to treat it with the same contempt and disgrace it was subjected to while hanging on the cross on Golgotha. He is crucified once for me already. May I never be guilty of rending His Body with my sword of selfishness or of rehanging Him on a tree with my nails of arrogance.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you; that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34, 35
All Bible quotes are from Zondervan’s Classic Reference Bible, New American Standard Bible–Updated Edition copyright 1999 by Zondervan
NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.