Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Unity In Difference

T must have felt like wrangling today, because during the back end of his visit here today he broke out the whips to beat his favorite dead horse.  It started with his recounting of the topic of a recorded sermon series to which a mutual acquaintance is listening.  Apparently the preacher in the series has a bit to say on the subject of the mark of the beast, mentioned in the Bible, in the Book of the Revelation of Jesus, the last Book of the Bible.  The only thing I got out of T's description of what he says he heard is that this preacher believes, and is teaching, that there are forms of worship occurring in the Church (I mean the Church Universal, not the Catholic Church; because I know that Catholics capitalize the word "Church" in reference to itself, but I'm not Catholic, and I'm making the distinction between the Body of Christ and a building or denomination) that are not representative of what ought to be the true worship of a member of the Body of Christ.  Such worship, this preacher teaches, carries on it the mark of the beast.

"But who is he to say whose way of worship is right and whose is wrong?!" T demanded.  "He is just a man!  Nobody knows who's right or wrong!  That's why there are so many denominations out here, because nobody agrees on what's right or wrong, and nobody knows.  Everybody's different!"

God has done something in me since T told me he couldn't relate to me anymore.  Yes, I still defend my understanding of Christianity and the Bible whenever the subject arises, but whereas before his words always felt like an attack upon me, now I don't feel it so much, so that where I formerly resisted having the conversation after awhile, because it was so emotionally exhausting, now I have found, these last few times recently, that I am quite calm and accepting about it all; not accepting of his words, because difference doesn't always mean wrong, and the one who seeks wisdom and truth from God shall be given it, so it is indeed possible to know God's mind about the truths He has given us and which have been recorded; but accepting of his need to argue this.  I think it comes from recognizing that the true fight is not with me per se, but between the two forces that war for his soul, one of which has him and does not want to let go.  But T does and will belong to God in the end, of this I am and choose to be assured, so it is merely a waiting time for me until I see the manifestation.  I know it will be glorious :-)!

His words came to mind not more than an hour later when, during the beginning of our time of prayer at a local church, the group leader, a sweet angel of a lady with such a beautiful and joyous heart, shared with us the conversation, as she chose to term it, that arose out of what turned out to be perceived differences in styles of praying.  The discussion arose out of the perception of a participant in the morning prayer group last week that one or more other participants had taken too much of their share of time at praying aloud in a group.   A little later, we were all engrossed in our group leader's discussion with us about a church where six hours per session somehow manage to be too short in spite of everything!

Our prayers tonight reflected the common knowledge that we all are unique, with unique ways of experiencing life and of processing and understanding what we experience.  We are all differently gifted by our Father for the carrying out of His will in the earth.  Yet, His Spirit fills all who are His:  One Lord, one faith, one baptism in the Spirit, as Apostle Paul says.  Therefore, rather than that our differences divide us, we prayed tonight, and all ought to pray always, that we will be one in Him, just as Jesus Himself prayed for all of us.  

For as we all know that difference has been used of Satan to cause division among the race of mankind, even among those who claim to be believers in and adherers to the Word of God, so we all aught to recognize as well that our differences mean the coverage of the earth more effectively with our Lord's message for the ushering in of His kingdom.  Every part of the body is different one part from another, yet each part contributes its portion to the total experience of life of the complete person.  Moreso is this true in the Spirit:  We all have our unique testimonies and gifts, yet we all contribute in our individuality to the growth of the Church Universal which is headed by God Himself, from Whom we all receive the power of the Holy Spirit.  So just as the one Spirit activates all the individual parts for the good of the whole Body, so we ought not be intimidated by our differences, nor ought we to be divided by them.  

Moreover, we ought not to accept as condemnation or criticism from outsiders their pointing out of our differences individually, whether there be errors by individuals when they act out of ignorance, misunderstanding, or incomplete information, or whether there be sins willfully committed in rebellion, as rationalization for their own misconduct before God, because all have sinned and fall short of His glory, whether in the Body or not, and for all Jesus had to make atonement, whether they be in the Body or not.  The Bible is clear:  The soul that sins shall die.  Only one atonement is available as a remedy for this, and it has been made.  All that remains is for those who have sinned to become of a different mind about sin, recognizing that Jesus, and not the sinful individual, is right, Lord, and the one Who must be obeyed.  Sin of which a Believer is guilty is still sin, and lack of knowledge is still destructive; therefore it lacks merit as a justification of the misbehavior of a rebel.  If judgment starts in the house of God, as the Bible says, then what man outside it is there who should think it will go any better for him?

As for the charge that God has not told us who is right and who is wrong, the answer, by way of warning, that I would give is that to whom much is given, much is required.  This applies, as much as to anything else, to the ability and opportunity to receive, understand, and do the right that God has made known.  The Bible repeatedly states that "He has (my emphasis) shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you but to do what is right, have a heart for mercy, and walk humbly with your God?"  To whom He is accused of having not shown it, that one has closed his eyes and therefore cannot see.  But we do not have a God who gives us instruction, then leaves us with no understanding how to follow the instruction He has given.  We may freely seek wisdom from our Father, asking Him, and He gives freely, without reproach.  He invites us to come and reason together with Him.  

True, there will, for all our seeking and asking, not be a total answering of all questions in this life, but there will be a Day when we will know to the same extent we are known.  Until then, let us rejoice in the beauty of our uniqueness, given by God as it is, for it is given so that the Body into which He is incorporating us will lack nothing.  At the same time, let us recognize that our true distinctiveness is not because of our differences, but because of the unity to be found in Him.  In our distinction one from another, we are all bearers of His image, therefore let us know well where our focus should be:  It's not about us, but about Him.