Tuesday, January 19, 2016

What We Fight Over

The Christian church is divided. I am not talking about the divisions over doctrine and moral behavior, which can be defended. Nor am I talking about the divisions over personal animosities, which are not so excusable but are not surprising in a fallen world. I am speaking of the divisions over style and methodology, or even by age and race. We fight over things like dress and types of music and other things that seem to go under the category of details. Even some things that are considered doctrinal seem more a matter of style than principle. Now God does call us to unity (Romans 15:7; Philippians 2:1,2; Ephesians 4:3-6), but what does this mean? In Scripture this does not mean being exactly alike. Scripture pictures Christ’s church as a body made up of different members that work together to accomplish God’s purposes (1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11-16). The Christian church is an assembly of people with different backgrounds, different tastes, different personalities, and different gifts, brought together to serve the one true God. How can we return to that ideal?  

I am convinced that the first step to bridging these divides is to follow the Biblical principle of putting others and their concerns before what we want (Philippians 2:3,4; Romans 15:1,2; Mark 10:42-44). In doing this we are following the example of our Master, who left the throne of heaven to rescue us from our sin (Philippians 2:5-11; Romans 15:3; Mark 10:45). This, in many ways, cuts across our current consumer-oriented approach to churches. We look for a church that meets our needs and where we feel comfortable. Now all of us have legitimate needs, and there is a place for considering them when choosing a church. We are not self-sufficient, and we need one another to be built up (Hebrews 10:24,25; Colossians 2:19; 1:28,29). Therefore, we should not be so proud as to refuse to accept this. Nonetheless, should we really be totally focused on our needs and what makes us feel comfortable? Should we not also consider how we might serve others? Should we not even consider looking for a church that needs us and needs our gifts, rather than one that simply reinforces our prejudices? Should we not try to find ways to build bridges to people different from us, rather than stay in our comfortable cliques? And if we are already part of a church, should we not look for what we can contribute to that church, rather than simply what it does for us? Now there is a balance here. I do not suggest that someone go into or stay in a perfectly horrid situation on the idea they can certainly change it. There is a certain amount of conceit involved here. But neither should we simply approach being part of a church based wholly on the idea of what is in it for us. For this is not the attitude of a true servant.

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