As I sit down to write this post, I’m mentally running through how each group of people reading this may or may not respond to whatever I write. Some of the imagined responses contribute to my pride. Others contribute to my fear. The extent to which this process of thinking affects my actions is deep enough that some people would say I have anxiety…frankly, it’s not anxiety; my thoughts go to this place because I’m selfish, overly-concerned with what people think to the point of being tempted to compromise truth, namely truth about God and about how He sees me, and because the enemy is taking a desire to humbly consider others and twisting it.
I want to talk about confusion, and how the enemy uses it to divide, enslave, and brew chaos in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 14:33, Ephesians 4:11-16, 5:6).
I want to talk about the need for unity in the Body of Christ, not just the local assemblies, but the universal Church…all of it (John 13:34-35).
I want to talk about the problem of selfishness that all humans are inclined to struggle with until we live in eternity with Jesus (Numbers 15:39).
And I’m frustrated because there will be many readers who’ll read whatever I say on those topics and think, “Amen! That really does need to happen!” all while they sit in judgment and unnecessary criticism towards their brothers and sisters in Christ over traditions, methods, experiences, ways of learning, ways of teaching, worship, communion, vision, and a host of other things that ought not to be issues in the Body…and, if they are issues, they ought to be handled in love and out of an eagerness to maintain and pursue unity, of course not at the cost of compromising the Truth of God’s Word, but yes at the cost of compromising preferences.
*Face turns red from embarrassment; gets down from soap box*
And then I’m here, struggling through the same difficulties of loving my brothers and sisters in Christ because of those same things. I know that some of the things I’m holding to are preferences, and I am learning to sacrifice them in pursuit of the Truth, but there are still some things that I believe are true but that I can’t totally justify through Scripture. And then there are things numerous Christians describe with such conviction and overwhelming emotion but with hardly any biblical basis and yet I feel helpless to challenge or question them because of my own insecurity about my knowledge and understanding of the Bible. When did ministry become so absolutely messy?
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
“Do not think I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
“Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.'” (Mark 10:29-30)
…Well, okay, sure, Jesus promises a whole lot of persecution and messiness from outside the Church, but what about inside?
“So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.’ But Peter began and explained it to them in order….’If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?’ When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.'” (Acts 11:2-4, 17-18)
“John said to him, ‘Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.’ But Jesus said, ‘Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will not be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.'” (Mark 9:38-40)
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13)
The New Testament is full of challenges posited to believers in their interactions with each other (Philippians 2:1-4, Ephesians 4:25-32, Hebrews 10:24-25); God knew that, as we love each other, as we get into each other’s lives, even confess our sins to one another (James 5:16) things are going to get a little messy.
And yet, it’s okay…
“What? How can all of the nonsense you just listed be at all good? It sounds exhausting, dramatic, stupid, and frustrating, as you said.”
Yeah…It certainly seems like loving the world is easy (I can’t believe I just said that), but loving my brothers and sisters in Christ is difficult, simply because of my own pride, selfishness, and struggle with judging others. And yet, I don’t know the world…we don’t have the same Father. But I know the people in my family…I know their sins, their struggles, their joys, their pitfalls, their spiritual giftings, their personalities, their internal reactions. I cry with them, I laugh with them, I eat with them. The real stuff comes out when you actually live life with people. I get to see their bad side. I am privy to the hard stuff in their lives, and they’re privy to that of mine.
And so, while the beginning of this post started out as a rant, as a desperate plea for it all to stop, I’m actually really thankful for it. I’m thankful for the privilege of all of my struggles being known by them. I’m thankful for the opportunity to love them and be loved by them in spite of all the garbage we carry around with us until we see our Father in eternity. I’m thankful that the goal in our relationships with each other is to continue loving, forgiving, challenging, encouraging each other towards Christ, who binds us together. I’m thankful for the work that it takes to push past my own emotions and selfishness to really have relationships with people following Christ and that it’s a value of God’s that we actually have relationships with each other, especially in a world where superficiality and false friendship is often the order of the day. I’m thankful for the work ahead, in myself and in the world, concerning uniting the Body of Christ, regardless of how impossibly divided it seems.
I am thankful for the mess.
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27)
PS: Not to freak anyone out, but there will soon be a post on here that reads very much like a book review…because it is. I’m not intending for this blog to turn into a review blog, but there will pop up a review every now and then…that is all.