Monday, February 25, 2008

The pettiness of people vs. the wisdom of God

After reading over I Corinthians 1, my heart has been burdened by the way that we as Christians, but nevertheless human beings, act at times. Sadly, the same division that went on in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago is still going on today. Have you ever wondered what a nonbeliever thinks as he or she drives through town, passing a different church around every corner? No wonder nonbelievers see Christians as hypocrites! We preach a gospel of peacemaking, patience, selflessness, and love, and yet we divide based on preference issues. Here is what the Apostle Paul had to say about division in the church:

"Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." I Corinthians 1:1-3
Notice how Paul reinforces the unity of the body of believers in his greeting to the Corinthians. The believers are those who call upon the name of Jesus Christ, with the basic foundational beliefs.

"I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power." I Corinthians 1:10-17
Paul said that there is to be no division within the church. What does division in the church accomplish? From what I've seen, nothing.

And now, to Ephesians 4, where our youth pastor has been teaching from:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift." Ephesians 4:1-7

"Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." Ephesians 4:15,16

If we know the truth, then why is there division? Why around every street corner to we see a Baptist, Methodist, and Pentecostal church? Why are there 1st Baptists, 2nd Baptists, and Missionary Baptists? Why within churches that believe the exact same thing, but have differing preferences on how worship services are to be held, are the churches dividing? Why do we snub our noses at those who believe the same as far as foundational beliefs, but differ in secondary areas? These are questions that have come to my mind and the only answer I have is that Satan will attack wherever he can, and the church is a great place to start.

How are we to witness to those who are perishing when we can't even get along with each other?
I think that we can apply our American saying to the church: United we stand, divided we fall.

Peacemaking is so very important!

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." Matthew 5:9

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." James 3:13-18

Are you a peacemaker?