Sunday, September 21, 2008

United we stand (SOAP No. 2)

Scripture: I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long-suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. -- Ephesians 4:1-6

Observation: First, I think it is so cool that in Verses 4-6, there are seven times that the word “one” is used, as seven is generally seen as completeness. As horrible as I am with math, the way numbers appear in the Bible fascinates me. There are seven “ones” -- seven ways to show how we are supposed to be One. Okay, that probably only makes sense to me, but I think it’s awesome.

Turning now to Verses 1-3, I think it’s interesting to note how we are to stay united with other believers: with lowliness, meekness, longsuffering, love -- and it’s like Paul adds, “Hey, guys, this is not going to be easy. It’s going to be a tough fight -- get ready.” After reading a bit about Paul’s life recently, I have no doubt that he knew what we all come to realize: the world is not separated into just “good” and “bad” people. Not by a long shot.

Application: I’m a writer, and one of the things I focus on in my books is how not all people on the “good” side are necessarily good, and not all of the people on the “bad” side are pure evil. There are shades of gray, where people do bad things with good intentions. It would be so much easier if the world were separated into good and bad people who were easily distinguishable, but humans are much more complex than that. You can have one person who calls himself a Christian but badmouths his fellow brothers at every opportunity and consistently judges others by a standard that he sets himself. Unfortunately, I know people like this. We all do. And I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the only benefit I can see from their actions is that I can see them and tell myself, “I don’t want to be like THAT. I want my Christian witness and love to overshadow their hatred.”

Then, on the other hand, you can have another guy who is kind, generous, helpful -- and unsaved. And -- I’ve heard it so many times -- it’s because of people like I mentioned in the paragraph above that he doesn’t go to church. Honestly, I don’t know what to do about it. How do we ask people to come to church with us when some of the people who go to our church have been so rude and hateful to those we are trying to witness to?

I think Paul understood this; after all, he had to deal with many hypocrites in the church (and I use that word cautiously, I assure you). It’s so hard to keep the peace. My Sunday School teacher, a very wise woman, said sometimes you have to “love from a distance.” And I agree. That’s what you have to do occasionally with certain people. No one is going to get along with everyone; that’s inevitable. But we still have a greater purpose in this world -- to bring others to God. And we can’t do that if we continue to bicker with one another.

I think there’s a reason Paul listed the seven “ones” in Verses 4-6 (BTW, I know there’s a “one” in Verse 7, but it isn’t part of the sentence in the previous verses.). We’re supposed to be united -- to be complete. You can see this also with so many different denominations. I’m not knocking any one denomination, now. As long as you say that Jesus is the Son of God and the Lord of Lords, that He’s coming back one day, and that we are saved through faith, not actions -- hey, that’s what I believe, too! I am a child of God!!!

Prayer: God, so often it’s hard to love the unlovable, but You taught us that we’re supposed to do just that. Please let us realize that there is a greater war besides our pride and our stubbornness. Eternity is at stake. What can be more important? Please help us put aside our petty battles and work together for Your glory. I pray that people do not always base faith on poor choices Christians make and that the unsaved realize that we are continually a work in progress and will be for the rest of our lives. I don’t want to be the reason people stay away from church. I want to be the reason they go -- because they see Your love through me.


Anonymous said...

I was reading about this very same thing today (different part of the Bible, though)! :)

I think 1 Thess 5:14 helps with this a lot: "And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone." Paul gives us instructions on how to deal with different kinds of people - warn those who are idle (Greek word actually means disorderly - but you'd probably know that from your KJV ;)), encourage the timid, and help the weak. Overall be patient to all. We can apply these principles to anyone we meet. You shouldn't go to everyone preaching fire and brimstone because not everyone will respond to that. The stubborn and hardheaded might need that, but someone who is sensitive and well, timid (why try to improve on the Word?) will need encouragement.

Great post. Keep 'em coming!

Counting the days till Saturday! SO glad you guys want to go to the zoo! :) As long as it doesn't interfere with Saints or LSU, right? ;)

MInTheGap said...

It was part of the Lord's Prayer (the true one in John 17 :) ) where Christ prayed that we'd all be one that hit me in my reading the other morning.

We have a lot of trouble being one with our local body to be good at being one in a collective sense-- and that's a big part of our problem. People see that there are so many with the label "Christian" and that some of these people truly do bad things.

I don't think that some churches have this as a high enough priority. And some churches have this at too high a priority.

Tough to find balance!

misti said...

I love, love reading your thoughts here. Proverbs 27:17