Thursday, April 12, 2012

Christian Unity and Grace

Jesus said to shout from the rooftops that which He whispers to us. 

He made each of us Christians unique for a purpose. He reveals some things to some of us and others to others because of both our unique work for Him and also so that we can share. That is why testimonies are such a powerful thing.

All too often Christians attack each other. Most often it's groups of Christians crossing out fellowship amongst each other in a fell swoop, without any personal knowledge or friendships guiding their decisions.

I find this very painful.  Especially when strong, vibrant Christians are the ones who are passionate towards disunity. It seems they often have an attitude of, "Well since they don't agree with us, they have to change entirely before they can be in union with us; otherwise they aren't true Christians."

But imagine if Christ said that to us? What if when you came to Him for your salvation He said, "You must perfectly agree with everything I say already. Your heart must be aligned with mine. Then you can come and have fellowship with me, not before." But He doesn't! He welcomes us with misaligned hearts and evil desires, and then seeks to change us towards His perfection within the union of fellowship, not excluding us from that fellowship until we change.

The way so many Christians are towards their brethren is an attitude without grace. I think much of our change towards Christlikeness comes from fellowship with other Christians... so when we fracture that fellowship, we fracture our progress to growing to His full stature.

I think that's where a lot of the fracturing comes from, actually. Change is a hard thing. When we fellowship with a group of believers who are in agreement with us, we don't stretch ourselves. When we encounter a Christian with a different theology that challenges ours, it;s easier to say "they've got it wrong so I won't fellowship with them" than it is to ask ourselves if there is possibly something we don't understand.

I'm not saying that other Christians don't get stuff wrong sometimes. I've been that Christian with flawed theology! But I found Christ to be a perfect Teacher. And very often the tools of his teaching were loving Christians farther along the road who loved me wholly and unconditionally, studied the Word and shared meals with me without condemnation and slowly, softly, gently the Spirit Himself showed me the error of my ways. It didn't take yelling or closed doors. The Spirit is always working to bring those who are listening closer and closer to Christ-like perfection.

There are times when God does tell us not to fellowship wholly. Such as in the case of unrepentant sexual immorality.

But there are few examples of this and myriad examples of scripture stressing unity as important.

In my Bible reading today I read how some of Jesus' followers stopped someone who was casting out demons in His name. Jesus rebuked them for that, saying, " For the one who is not against us is for us." Mark 9:40 When Jesus himself says that, who are we to say that this group that "claims to be Christians" are to be denigrated?

That's not to say there aren't false teachings out there and false teachers and prophets. We get explicit warnings about this!But the Bible tells us to beware and cling to the Truth... and that's all it says. While Paul talks against false apostles tricking some, he spends far more time focusing on why the Truth is true and reminding them about their past together and how God moved in their lives so they would realize their error than specific attacks on the false teachers.

There are lot of lies out there. I'm not advocating a wishy-washy faith. I'm calling for a radical, loving, intense faith. Pursue the Truth. Make Christ should be the focus of your daily life. Just don't despise the brother or sister whose spiritual journey took them to a different denomination. Don't despise the Christian who fails to know a vital Truth or believes a common lie, but instead offer them love and friendship and see change take place.... maybe in you.

Think about the relationships you maintain in your life.  So often in order to preserve unity, we all must lay aside ourselves in order to love. The fracturing of unity is not just from a lack of grace, but often an abundance of pride.

Lastly, if you struggle with unity know that God knows your limitations. He is with you always. He can stretch and grow you... He also knows you only have 2 hours a day. You can love from afar. Instead of hardening your hearts to them, pray for them. Maybe you don't have them over for dinner. Maybe you're afraid of what they may tell your children. Pray for them from afar. I think again,k- you'll see change.

Maybe in you.

Let us love abundantly. Shower grace as freely as we were given grace. Choose humility over pride. Love, love, love.

And I think we'll all- come closer to one another, because there is only One Christ, One Church, One Spirit. The more we grow in faith, the closer we get to Christ, the closer we will come to Him. Amen.


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