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Unity and Division in the Church Part 1 - Unity

In the mid-1980’s, three men were appointed as leaders of a tiny Christian fellowship in a middle-eastern country. They could not have been more different from each other. Hanwoo was a Pentecostal from Korea. He strongly believed in the submission to and movement of and through the Spirit of God; so much so that he refused to prepare for Sunday sermons so as not to quench the Spirit. Julian was from England and had a charismatic background. As such, he held to the use of tongues, the importance of experiencing God and the exercise of all the spiritual gifts. He did not however hold to some of Hanwoo’s more extreme positions like instant healing or direction of the Spirit in all things. Then there was Steve, a fundamentalist from New England in the United States of America. While he had a vibrant walk with Christ, he could be designated as one of the “frozen chosen.” He tended towards cessationism and did not like emotional engagement in his worship. For him, Scripture was first and experience came as a distant second or third. He tended towards a more reformed and cerebral view of the Christian life. In addition to this, Hanwoo spoke no English, so all of the church business had to be transacted in the local language, making things even more difficult for both Julian and Steve for whom English was the primary language. And yet, and yet these three very different men labored together for the foundation of one of the most effective fellowships in that country. Beyond that, they became friends who love and respect each other deeply. They evidenced a biblical unity that I have not encountered anywhere else so far. What was their secret? Let’s consider that together.

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Pondering the Master

Over the past year, I have made it a point to pray through the Armor of God in Ephesians 6:10-18 almost daily. I usually do this as I am driving after dropping my children off at school. All goes well until I pray through the verse, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph. 6:12 – NIV) No sooner, do I pray, “Lord, help me remember that people are not my enemy,” than some person makes an incredibly thoughtless or reckless move in traffic, bringing us all to a skidding halt. My ire rises and a curse forms on my lips; then I remember: this person is not my enemy. He or she may be a self-centered, thoughtless person, but he or she is not my enemy. The Devil is; the demons who are allied with him are. People, humans, are merely victims in this war between God and Satan. Most are willing victims, responsible for their actions, but they must be viewed as prisoners of war rather than as the enemy.

This is not a Matrix-style world, in which everyone is a potential enemy, as Agents can possess the space of an existing mind, turning them into a killing machine. Even if a person is possessed by the Devil, that person is still one of God’s highest creations and not my enemy, regardless of how that person sees me. This is something that the Church would do well to remember, especially in the west, as she engages in rhetoric and invective against godless doctrines. Too often we paint individuals, like Pope Francis, President Trump, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, Jeremy Corbyn, Justin Trudeau or Angela Merkel, as the enemy. Or we view other groups, reprehensible though they may be, as the enemy. People are not our enemies! We need to engage them lovingly and caringly. This is usually not possible in the world of social media, where pithy responses, snarky one-liners and straw-man arguments abound. Rather, we are called to find people, open ourselves to them, allowing us to be wounded, as Jesus allowed Himself to be wounded (see His words in Mt. 5:43-48), and work to draw them to the One who gives life; not through argumentative truth-telling (though telling the truth is absolutely necessary), but rather through love-filled, righteous lives and pouring ourselves out for those whom the true Enemy seeks to divide us from. They will know we are Christians by our love (Jn. 13:34-35), not by our invective. So, let us seek to actively love those people who appear to be our enemies and bring glory to God.

Image Credit: The Matrix (© 1999 Warner Bros.) | The Internet Movie Firearms Database

From Wolfhawke’s Reading List

Ellis Peters

New York: Mysterious Press.

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