“If it’s about something less than him, we can fragment on anything.”
Last night I was listening to a podcast we listen to regularly, and this week’s episode just resonated with me more than I can say. The show covers all sorts of things… it’s just a weekly conversation between two guys trying to live life with God outside of any boxes we can create. This week, I believe the topic was picked from when one of the guys made a trip back to his Christian college alma mater. Many of the people there were living life with Jesus completely differently from how he currently is, or would ever want to – and still there was unity. There was commonness. There was togetherness.
The guys got talking about how if we just share Jesus, we can live together in harmony. When we make it about anything less (they meant that obviously anything in the universe is “less” than Jesus, so if we make our bond, or our unity about anything other than Jesus) then we will inevitably fragment. We’ll argue about music style, or carpet color, or what we call ourselves, or any number of silly things. We’ll even argue about what we call “truth”. But truth is a Person. Not a list of doctrines. So even THAT can get in the way of our unity – of us being a family.
I could not agree more.
Probably more than 10 years ago now, I had just begun working for a tiny “church” here in upstate NY and, being the idealist that I (still) am, I would engage the current “senior pastor” and my fellow fledgling “minister” in long discussions about the nature of what we were trying to accomplish as the Church of Christ at Victor. And when I would boil it all down, I came to the conclusion that nothing that we currently did together – none of the very helpful programs, or even the weekly worship services – were essential to us being the Church. We simple are the Church. Nothing really can change that, unless we choose to leave the Church.
And I don’t mean to put our behinds somewhere else on a Sunday morning.
God’s plan from before creation was to adopt us into his family, as his children. That is what he offers to us. Anyone who accepts his offer is now part of his family – which is The Church. His Body, of which he is the head. His body is not just some small group of people meeting across the street from another small group of people calling themselves his body also… it’s the whole of both of those groups, plus the other three groups meeting just up the street. We in America (not always, but quite often) base our “fellowship” or our connection with believers on the extra name we bear. Not that of an adopted member of God’s family… but that of our local congregation. In many ways, being a member of “First Church of the Resurrection” is more important to us than being a son or daughter of God!
Or at least, that’s the way it would appear.
One of the podcast guys told a great story about one of his instructors (I believe that’s who it was) at his college, who has since been a life-long friend. He had a falling out with the school when he left, and the bitterness continued in him for a time after that. His friend was taking communion one day and as he was holding the bread, looking at it, he saw through the bread – like a door – and on the other side was Jesus, standing there with his arm around one of the people from the school who had hurt him the most. His reaction was, “No, Jesus! You can’t do that! He’s the one who hurt me!” And Jesus’ response was, “I’m not going to stop being this guy’s friend to be your friend.”
How cool is that? Jesus does not take sides (he shows no favorites). He loves us all the same, even when we don’t or can’t. It doesn’t matter how we “do church” or where we “go to church” or anything EXTRA. All that matters is that we are his brothers, that we are all adopted sons and daughters of the same Father.
We don’t have to pretend… we just are. I know, brothers don’t always get along. Just yesterday, Alex came out from the other room to where I was and told me that Ian wasn’t his brother anymore. After stifling a little laugh, I asked, “Well what do you mean?” He told me the “horrible” thing Ian did, and said, “So he’s not my brother anymore.” I smiled at him, and hugged him and said, “You know, that’s never going to change. No matter what either of you do, you’ll always be brothers. That’s just the way it is. So what you have to do now is go back in there and figure out a way to work together.” (I wish the story had a better ending, but I think what he did was go in and demand a little louder what it was he wanted from his brother. 🙂 We’re still working on that….)
But isn’t that the point? We are brothers, and sisters in Christ. We are his family. Not multiple families bearing different names who are distant cousins. We are his family. Brother and sister. When we put anything else in the way of our common bond – Jesus – then we begin living like we are not. Even though that will never change. We will always be brothers.
I thought it was an excellent podcast, and I intend to ask some folks close to me to check it out. How I long for the unity Jesus spoke of in the book of John. We are meant to be united, but too often we make life as a believer to be “more than Jesus”… and it just gets is in a big mess.
It really is true… the more we focus on him, the more he holds all things together (that’s the name of the show…) So, today and this coming week… that’s what I will try to do. I want to focus on him in my relationship with other people, and we’ll see what happens. 🙂