The Church of God, in its present state on this earth, is not perfect. It’s not perfect. It’s made up of sinful, but redeemed people. Christ followers who make up Jesus’ Church are living in this in-between state of having been already adopted by God yet still awaiting that final adoption and redemption of our bodies. So, too, the Church lives in the tension of the Kingdom come, yet, “Lord, come quickly.” So, naturally, the Church is going to have its problems.
We’re going to disagree. We’re going to differ. We’re going to see some things differently than others. And that’s OK. Our diversity in the Church is God-created and God-ordained.
We’re going to fuss and argue and bicker and complain. We’re going to fight. And that’s not OK. Our line-drawing and boundary-making in the Church is certainly not God-ordained.
When the apostle Paul deals with the most explosive “salvation issue” being argued in the Church during his day, he instructs congregations to chunk their knowledge out the window. Everybody has knowledge, he says in 1 Corinthians 8:1. “We know that we all possess knowledge.” But that has no value in settling church disputes. Knowledge has no place in deciding on church issues and deciding between church members.
The answer is Love.
Love builds up. Knowledge puffs up. Knowledge causes us to bow up and dig in. Love causes us to bow down and give in. Knowledge moves us to defend and debate. Love moves us to open up and agree. Knowledge leads to suspicion and judgment. Love leads to trust and acceptance. Knowledge is the way of the World. Love is the way of the Christ.
And, shouldn’t the older, more mature Christians among us be the ones to lead the way in love over knowledge? Shouldn’t our older brothers and sisters know this and practice this and model this for the rest of us? Paul says, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God” (1 Corinthians 8:2-3). If we can’t look to our older members to exhibit Christ’s love and grace and sacrifice in all situations — especially church situations! — to whom should we look?
When it comes to clapping during a Sunday morning assembly (let’s just cut to the chase and make it practical in an overly obvious way, shall we?), you can do one of two things. You can complain about it and tell people not to clap; or you can smile and join them in their clapping. Which one builds up? Which one puffs up?
When it comes to raising hands during worship you can do one of two things. You can complain about it and tell people not to raise their hands (or not to raise their hands too high); or you can grin through it and then compliment that person for the joy they bring to the assembly. Which one encourages? Which one discourages?
I want you to seriously consider your reaction to anything your congregation may or may not be doing that causes you a little discomfort or even full-blown heartburn. Think about your response to your own brothers and sisters who may be expressing themselves in worship to God in ways that you don’t personally embrace. Are you going to bless those people or curse them? Will you tear them down with your knowledge or build them up with your love?
I am weary of these conversations. We ought to know better.
David and Olivia Nelson are back in town! Our precious Legacy to the World missionaries in Kharkov, Ukraine arrived at DFW late yesterday afternoon and joined us for Bible classes here last night. They’re going to be here with us for the whole month of November. What a blessing! What an encouragement to have these two — no, THREE! — here among us again.
Carrie-Anne and I were so blessed to live with them in Kharkov for almost two weeks this past June. We went over there to help them and encourage them. But they wound up helping us and encouraging us even more.
If you’re looking to succeed in business or politics, you’re told to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you. Hang out with people who know more than you. Hire people who will challenge you and push you. Limiting your personal interactions to folks who aren’t quite up to speed won’t get you where you want to be. I think the same is true in our personal walks with Christ. In order to be the best kinds of disciples we can be, in order to live up and into the p0tential God created in us, we should surround ourselves with people who are closer to God than we are. We should continually interact with men and women who are more spiritually minded, more sacrificial and servant-hearted, more prayerful, more committed than we are.
Their commitment to the Kingdom pushes me. Their unshakeable faith in God challenges me. Their big-picture views of Christ’s salvation work in the world humbles me. Their willingness — no, eagerness! — to give up everything for the sake of the cross inspires me.
We’ll take them to Abuelo’s so they can enjoy real Tex-Mex for the first time in two years. We’ll bring them over to the house a couple of times for some of Carrie-Anne’s home cooking and long games of Phase 10. We’ll be at Caleb’s baby shower Sunday afternoon. We’ll take care of them and encourage them as much as we can during this month at Legacy. But I’m really looking forward to the ways they’re going to encourage and grow me.