Stately pictures of former pastors held a prominent position in my childhood church. The honor and reverence ascribed to these men was evident to all who entered the narthex. It was later in life that I learned about pride, politics, and powerplays in the church.
There are days when I question my departure from the excitement of Wall Street for the drama of church. It is a travesty that so many Christians have been hurt by their affiliation with the body of Christ. It must be accounted a miracle for someone to claim that they have never been hurt by another or others in the house of God.
Sadly, most of us, myself included, have been a party to the wrong side of this issue. Christians are sinners and our sins, often done under the cloak of projected righteousness, wound the brethren. Scars of the soul are seen in the eyes of wearied sheep. We all claim to labor as unto the Lord, but are we so zealous in our ambition that we leave a trail of tears?
Most of the work in most of the churches is done by saints, who give themselves to the Lord in selfless acts of voluntary service. As a former pastor, I used to marvel at the quantity and quality of good works performed by the Spirit-filled people in the pews. Most of these sacrificial acts of kindness, generosity, and hospitality were unreported, unrecorded blessings. I was simply in a seat to know more of what was going on than others. That in itself was a blessing to me.
Not that there was ever a shortage of thanksgiving by the blessed, but one act inspired another by those who received. We know as children of God that it is more blessed to give than to receive. Fear often hinders more profound acts by believers, but the move of the Spirit on one heir of God can also spread the increase of faith to others.
Christians, by definition, are witnesses to the acts of the Holy Spirit. We have spiritual discernment that allows us to see things oblivious to the unregenerate. When the devil has inroads in the local congregation the loss of heart, vision, love, and motivation-to-serve becomes normative. No church member, who is filled with the Spirit ever imagines he or she is a ally to the demonic intruder. We must confess that we can be and probably have already participated in his clever schemes of destruction.
In the heart of drama, saints can be estranged from one another in the fallout of activity in the church that is tainted with sin. Because we share in a ministry of reconciliation, which is a Christian imperative not just for lost souls, the adopted child of God must actively work to repair what has broken in the unity with the brethren.
Divisions can run deep in matters of the soul, but we must ever remember that we share an eternity together with the One who forgave us all. Our daily breaches in trust warrant nothing less than eternal hell. We have been unfaithful and untrue to our calling. By His grace we are convicted. By His grace we repent. By His grace we receive the faith to re-align with Him again and again.
It is glorifying to God for us to practice the “one another” passages found throughout Scripture. When we do, the fruit of the Spirit becomes evident to us. We are filled with love, joy, peace, etc. The right mode of operation is gentleness and kindness. The world is fierce and vicious, and sheep look stupid when we mimic wolves and lions. Patient, faithful waiting on the Good Shepherd suits the one who follows Him.
In a recent study of the doctrine of providence, I was reminded of God’s sovereign control of all things for His purposes. He is the prime Mover, the primary cause of all things, both good and evil. Because we belong to the Lord, evil acts we may be a party to are indicative of sinful flesh that wars against the Spirit. Our desire to mortify sin in the flesh means we must walk by the Spirit. The way of victory is faith in Christ, who leads us on the path of righteousness.
The way of the Lord is humility. This is a new way for those who formerly walked in the way of the world (ie. ambition, pride, competition, achievement, glory, etc.). Sheep graze in the presence of the Shepherd. They rest in His providential care and protection. The Lord provides Himself as our all in all. Those who are at rest neither impose themselves on others nor do they boast in themselves when good things happen. God is working His will, and we are witnesses.
Jesus never man-handles His beloved. He helps, comforts, teaches, serves, blesses those who are His. For a Christian to harm another Christian is not of the Lord. In the opinion of another believer, have you hurt them? Are you estranged from your brother? What would the Spirit of the Lord have you to do in this particular relationship?
May God grant us all, the peace with one another that He Himself maintains with each one of us. May love abound with the spirit of reconciliation, and may the world observe our restored relationships that reflect the reality of our eternity, for God’s glory and our delight.
July 15, 2021