I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family.” Barney sings that line to the kids watching TV and we want it to be true. It’s a corny expression of the importance of ‘connectness,’ but… we do need each other. We can only be all that God wants us to be when we nurture strong and close ties to other disciples. That is why the Enemy of God and His people works so intently to destroy or diminish relationships. Yesterday, I quoted from 1 Corinthians 12 where the Spirit illustrates our connection to others with this statement: “The way that God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part.”
It not always easy to stay connected! Sometimes we just want to do our thing and go our own way, don’t we? I had a difference with a brother who some hard things to me and about me. I’d like to be able to tell you that my first impulse was to listen carefully, to sort through his words searching for the truth. It wasn’t! His criticism hurt, badly. His stinging words echoed over and over in my mind, like a looping tape. But, the Spirit of God is faithful, and helped me (eventually!) to work toward an honest consideration of what he had to say. As I gave up my need to be ‘right,’ God granted me peace. With that peace came the perspective that was necessary to evaluate his message, unpleasant as it was. Though this brother and I see the way God works with some difference, his perspective is important to me, and I hope mine is to him. We are both stronger for having each other ‘in the Body.’
The natural result of that kind of conflict is to pick up our toys and move on. That’s one reason in most American towns there are 20 different churches preaching nearly the same message. When difference arises, instead of doing the very difficult work of working through our disagreements and asking the Spirit of God to help us to remain ‘one’ in His love; we hit the road, off to do our own thing, learning little or nothing from conflict except how to avoid it, mask it, or worst of all – to employ tactics that allow us to ‘win at all costs,’ without realizing that we are destroying the work of God.
Never confuse the very real freedom in Christ that makes keeps us from being slaves to religious rules and regulations imposed on us by others with a libertarian attitude that says, ‘Nobody’s gonna tell me anything except the Holy Spirit!’ (Please re-read the previous sentence, thoughtfully.)
As I wrote yesterday, our American love of independence mutates into a toxic virus when we bring it to church with us. That virus blinds us to the fact that we are interdependent by God’s design, which is to say, “we need each other.” The result of being a free-lance disciple with weak or non-existent commitment to the local church is that sins and weaknesses go unchallenged and thus, unchanged, in us.
People who have been Christians for decades are often still acting like infants because they will not consider any words that are unpleasant as possibly being true. Truth and love, they are in balance. That is why the Word teaches us to love the truth and to keep talking with each other about it! Notice the result of that extended conversation: “… we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.”(Ephesians 4:15-16, NLT)
God means for us to enjoy the safety of numbers!
Proverbs pithy wisdom goes right to the core of the matter saying, “…victory depends on having many counselors.” (Proverbs 24:6, NLT)
Get connected, stay connected – through good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant. That’s God’s way of getting you and me to ‘grow up’ in Christ.
And remember, when you’re tempted to be offended, as I was, lighten up!
“Blessed are they who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”