(Currently in the land beyond the sea where ah boys turn into men, this is something I wrote quite some time back but didn't get round to posting it so I figure might as well have it appear in the time when I'll not be able to post here.)
“Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
- A.W. Tozer
Every single time I see infighting in the church, my heart grows a heavier, and a little part of me dies.
The church cannot do without unity. It cannot do without a fervent love for fellow people who profess to follow the faith. It will break down and self destruct in the absence of unity in love. We hear about pastors talking all the time about the need to love one another, and we dream of these sweet beautiful love that we share and the wonderful community we have and all the friendships that will last for life. "Yes pastor, amen! We will love one another" we declare, full of conviction in our hearts. That works fine for awhile, but then we find this person who seems impossible to love and it all crumbles down.
Unity in love is needed for the church to be growing deeper in God. The church is made of broken people. Sinners, who need the grace of God. We did not become perfect beings on moment of salvation but we continue to struggle, fighting sin, fighting the difficult circumstances in our lives. The church is made up of imperfect people like you and me, people who need to be loved, to be encouraged and strengthed by fellow brothers and sisters that they may walk in the light of God. That is the whole point of the community isn't it? If the Christian journey was meant to be for individuals to find their way around, then why form the church? Each to his own! But God created this community, this institution for a reason. That the people of God may come together to edify one another, to love one another, to empower one another, that all may grow deeper in God.
Without love for one another, not only do we stifle ourselves and others from growing deeper in God, we hinder the advancement of the kingdom of God. Every part of the body needs to work together. Sometimes in our infighting, we forget that these people who we lash out against, whom we harbour displeasure and disdain towards, these are actually our co-workers. In the light of eternity, all these fights are but pathetic small petty selfish attacks on one another. We forget the true war that is ongoing. Instead of supporting one another as a team, we trip each other up. Sometimes it does not even need to go to that, it can simply be us ignoring the cries of help as someone who is supposed to be an ally of ours falls to the enemy. We watch on, thinking to ourselves 'well I didn't do any harm to him', but our apathy born out of this lack of unity and love will be all that is needed for the devil's victory.
Satan - 1, Church - 0.
So, why is it that sometimes we still harbour disdain and unforgiveness towards each other?
C.S. Lewis calls it the Great Sin. The sin in which all sin had its roots in. I tell you today that the unloving church is birthed from the black diabolical sin of pride.
We don't think to ourselves exactly the words 'he is not worthy of me', but that is how we live. We do not love others because we feel that they are not worth our efforts. They are not worth our time. They are not worth our words, our actions, our thoughts, our prayers. We dislike others because we feel that they are in some way inferior to us. We can even dislike them for their sin, forgetting that in doing so we ourselves have sinned. Dislike someone because he is insensitive to the feelings of others? Well then, have you been sensitive to his feelings yourself? Or is he not worthy of your sensitivity?
Who can truly say they are better than the other? We are all sinners who only by the grace of God we are saved. If we think of others as worse sinners than us and fail to love them as a result, then consider unforgiveness, strife, discord and apathy. Not a single one of us has the right to judge another given who we are. In fact, perhaps if we were to truly understand the other party and ourselves, we might end up finding that it is we who are the ones more in need.
If God can give grace to us, who are we to not give grace to others? Were we not redeemed while we were yet disgusting, undeserving sinners? Can we not love these other people? Or have we risen above God and now have the right to condemn?
Grace and humilty are the keys to unity in love in the church. If only we would not look at others with haughty eyes! If only we would humbly love and serve those around us, giving grace to those who seem the most undeserving.
But someone might protest, 'but he is a Christian, all the more he should not be doing all these things! That's why I am so upset with him!'.
Well first of all, I'd reiterate that even Christians need grace, even Christians are imperfect and need to grow deeper in God, and every bit of grace and love you offer, every bit of effort you give in understanding and identifying with his struggles will be a step for him to overcome what he faces.
The other point I would make is that if we truly are more spiritually mature than the other party, then the onus is upon us to lead and guide the one who is less spiritually mature to a deeper relationship with God. Not deride him for his lack of spiritual maturity (which ironically only reveals your own lack of). It is up to us to lovingly guide others, to bring them out of the pit they may have found themselves in. Not push them away because they may have dug themselves into the hole.
Yes, it is not easy, some people really seem like they deserve to be slapped in the face, but if Jesus went to calvary and was pierced and hung for you, it shouldn't be too demanding to withold a slap. At least no one is asking you to die for them.
People may not appreciate your efforts, but it doesn't matter. This love was never dependent on whether there is reciprocation. The other party may not recognise your efforts. In a two way battle, they may continue to treat you with disdain. In such times remember that we too received unmerited love and grace from God, and in return we love not for what others can give us but because Christ first loved us. It will be a struggle to try to continue to love someone who obviously hates you, but perhaps through that we ourselves may come to better understand God's love for us.
I may have spoken mostly of obvious outward infighting, but that is only on the surface level. If you say to yourself 'I don't quarrel with anyone so I'm in the clear', ask yourselves if there are buried tensions between you and other people. These are the roots of the problem and they too must be destroyed. There may be people that you do not openly dislike and often clash with them, but even things like being apathetic towards them are loopholes which can be exploited by the enemy to create disunity in the church, causing setbacks in growing deeper in God and in the advancement of the Kingdom.
What are you going to do about it? Let's not read this like it is good literature. Pray. Ask God to forgive us our sin and help us to learn to love. Practice it in life. Love that person whom you have always found unbearably detestful. Love him as God loved you.
Before I end off, I just want to talk briefly about something related. When we create a culture of condemnation instead of a culture of love in the community, more than just stifling growth, there are a couple of pretty scary things that can even emerge from it. A culture of condemnation creates a feeling in the community that they cannot share their dark sides with other people in the Church. That anything that makes them less than holy must be hidden from the sight of others in the Church or they themselves would risk being condemned. The result? There is no healing in the church. Christians live their lives in darkness, but hiding their darkenss behind veils and facades. A culture of condmenation creates a culture of hypocrisy, where we shy away from from letting others know our struggles and who we really are. The church thus becomes a sick church. Dieseases remain untreated and the church is consumed by it.
Let that never be our fate. Let us love one another, no matter how difficult it may be. That is what God has called us to do, and He is and always will be the reason.
I'm just going to leave a couple of verses here regarding what I have written about. It didn't even take me a long time and deep searching to extract these, I merely scanned through four epistles and quickly found these. Such a small portion of Scriptures and already so much on this topic. That just tells us how fundamentally important these truths are in Christian living.
Galatians 5:25-26, 6:1-2
If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Brothers,if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
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.
Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.