by Bob Allen:
I caught myself in a frustrating moment recently. I was dealing with a situation at church and felt my blood pressure elevate a bit. I’d love to say this was the first time I’d ever had something similar happen, but that would be a lie.
And if any of you reading this deny that stuff like this happens, you’d be lying too.
The truth is that churches, even the healthiest churches, are not always “just right”. Every church deals with kerfuffles, because every church is full of imperfect people. Now, these imperfect people should be allowing themselves to be shaped and molded by the Holy Spirit into a more Christ-like version of themselves, but even that is a process. Often, when we deal with the people at church, we feel like Professor Hinkle from Frosty the Snowman.
You know him, right?
He’s the magician who’s tricks always seem to go awry. Like when he’s brought in to do magic in front of a classroom of kids and he puts three eggs into his hat. His plan is to turn them into…well…we never actually find out what because he says the magic words, turns his hat over, and the eggs fall to the floor, cracking and splattering everywhere. He looks at the eggs and says, “Messy. Messy. Messy.” He’s well intentioned, but intentions only go so far.
When it comes to life in a church, it can get, as Professor Hinkle says, “Messy. Messy. Messy.”
Because we are imperfect people gathering together with other imperfect people, no matter how well intentioned we may be, we still get sideways with one another. Far too often, unfortunately, our intentions lead us into conflict with other people within the church. I’ve seen it. You’ve seen it. We’ve all seen it. When those minor abrasions remain unresolved, swept under the rug, or even ignored, they fester and run the danger of becoming infectious, eventually destroying the body from the inside-out.
So what do we do?
Scripture is pretty plain that we are to protect the unity of the body.
“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.” (Eph. 4:1-3)
Paul writes that pursuing unity with other believers is one of the keys to the Christian life. We are to be humble, gentle, patient, and enduring in relationships with other believers. Paul spent his life traveling here-there-and-everywhere preaching the gospel and how it reconciles man to God AND man to man. In his letter to the Galatians he emphasizes that the gospel transcends racial, cultural, socio-economic, and gender lines: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28) Christians, regardless of denomination, location, age, and race, are all one people in Christ and as such we are to live that reality by promoting and protecting that unity.
In a chapel address at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Alistair Begg once preached that the great drama of the gospel is demonstrated by the bringing together of a bunch of people who would not naturally hang out together, who would otherwise not even tolerate one another. The unity we find in and through the gospel is a key witness to the world. There are enough broken relationships in our society. People aren’t interested in being around them. Being unified shows the world that you can actually get along with people who aren’t like you.
So, when we are in those situations in church and we feel our blood pressure rise, our ears turn red, or desire to lash out, remember that you are called to humility, patience, gentleness, and endurance in your relationships with other believers. Church has always been, is currently, and will always be a messy place, so as far is it depends on you, desire and protect the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace within the body of believers by loving one another and focusing on the benefit of those around us.