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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

During the Christmas season, we often talk about God’s love and how He gave us the greatest gift of all. As I (Josh) was meditating on the list of growing faith in 2 Peter 1:5-7, several things came together in my mind about that amazing ḥesed/agape that is the final result of the list. Jayson Georges[1] and Jackson Wu[2] wrote several interesting articles about how God’s “grace” (charis) actually expects reciprocity from us. The classic definition of “unmerited favor without expecting anything in return” found in Protestant theology is not accurate. Rather, God gives us grace, expecting us to respond to Him in kind.

Another thread that I’d been meditating on was a statement by Daniel Bennett in a sermon series on 1 John: “Christ loves contra-conditionally.” This means that Christ says, “I know you’re going to fail, but regardless I commit to love you sacrificially. I know that you're a sinner, but I'm still going to love you.”[3]

Tying these things together, it made me realize that the kind of agape we are called is as follows: this love does expect love in return, but is prepared to be disappointed. It chooses to love, no matter the cost, no matter the response, knowing that most of the time the object of the love will not respond in kind; it is the ultimate sacrificial, unrequited love. Then when the object of that love returns it, it makes the love all the sweeter. That is how we as Christians are called to love: never giving up; expecting a response, all the while knowing it may never come; knowing the object of our love will screw up again and again and yet remaining loyal to them.

Image Credit: Redman Creative | Lightstock

From Wolfhawke’s Reading List

Steven R. Lawhead

New York: Avon Books.

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