Christian Unity, are we strangers in this world?

We are in the world but not of the world…Christian unity needs to become a priority.  If we truly believe we are citizens of the kingdom of God and not citizens of the world, we need to treat one another as part of the same team. 

travel-photos NKJV  Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,  (2)  elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied….1Pe 2:9-12   But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  (10)  who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  (11)  Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul,  (12)  having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

These verses expose a critical fact that many Christians never really grasp or even consider in their lives.  It can change the way they look at the world around them and the lost of this world.  It can also change the way Christians look at one another.

We are in the world but not of the world…Christian unity needs to become a priority.  If we truly believe we are citizens of the kingdom of God and not citizens of the world, we need to treat one another as part of the same team.  Unfortunately Christian denominationalism has produced a Christian Body that fights more with itself than the true enemy, Satan and his army.

Let us first look at how we view situations and the way we view others.

I live in northern Minnesota and we view people who live in various parts of the state differently.  Some people we see living in certain areas as the “rich and yuppie”. Other areas of the state are the “artsy”, and still other areas have people who we see are “clickish and clannish”.  We identify the differences they have with us and hold our identity as different and apart from them in many ways.

However, have you ever traveled to a different state or country and run into someone from Minnesota or the state you reside in?  Those differences seem to disappear and we find unity with a fellow Minnesotan.  Why is this?  It is because we are on someone else’s turf or territory and find comfort and a relationship with someone from the state we live in.  Our paradigm of how we view that person has changed and it reflects in the way we act with them.  They can easily become a friend and companion.

How does this have anything to do with the Christian Church?

The scriptures throughout the Bible make it clear this world is not our home.  The example of the Israelite’s shows how no matter where they were they were not considered welcome or part of the area.  The apostle Peter describes us, who are believers and followers of Jesus Christ, with the Greek word parepidēmos, which is defined as: one who comes from a foreign country into a city or land to reside there by the side of the natives, a stranger, sojourning in a strange place, a foreigner.

Do we act as Peter describes?  As aliens, strangers living in this world with worldly cultures and beliefs? 

  • We should see other believers that go to different fellowships as having something in common that creates a relationship of unity that supports us in the face of the “world” we live in.
  • For those that truly believe that Jesus is God and Lord and King, the world sees that in us and sees us as strangers living in their world. The Holy Spirit in us leaves an identity mark that the world sees clearly in how we act, talk and share the truth.
    • Do you find yourself trying to hide this distinguishing identity?

We as believers must get past the divisions that we have put in place with one another. 

  • Is the difference we have with another Christian fellowship really that critical that we will not nurture a relationship with them?
  • Do we place the pride in the name of the church we attend and the number that attend there over the unifying name of Jesus Christ? The tower in Babel was seen as an object that all the citizens could claim identity with and have pride in what they were a part of. (Gen 11:4)  Churches can fall into this same error with placing their identity on items like holiness standards, exercising of the gifts, number attending, and doctrinal statements that the Bible does not prove out.

We as believers in the truth and salvation in Jesus Christ need to live and share in the fight for independence from sin, Satan and the world.  We need to bind together and not separate.  What Benjamin Franklin stated to those promoting independence from England is relevant to us.  Ben stated, “We must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.”

John

Tolerance or Intolerance?

Intolerant to our views but we must continue in tolerance

I just read an email from Frank Viola discussing the new environment of “tolerance” that Christians are now facing. What Frank shared hit home with me.  First, I need to share the definition of tolerance before I move on.

Tolerance:  the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with

On the surface society preaches tolerance and respect for one another.  I see bumper stickers, signs and even great looking commercials preaching the message of tolerance.  Unfortunately, what I have experience in recent years is anything but tolerant when I am asked about my Christian beliefs and views if they go against the present views of our culture and society.  My views are based on Biblical truths that often fly in the face of our present society’s moral beliefs.  I am finding that the tolerance that has been preached by many non-Christians actually means the are intolerant of everyone who doesn’t bow to their values and beliefs.

Frank Viola puts the new “tolerance” this way. “If you don’t agree with my beliefs and my value system, then you’re intolerant. “Which being interpreted means: “In the name of tolerance, I’m intolerant of everyone who doesn’t bow to my values and beliefs.”  Or   “I’m intolerant of everyone except those who agree with me, and in the name of tolerance, I will brand them intolerant.”

How should we deal with this change in culture?  We must remember the rules and parameters we live by as believers has not changed simply because society around us has and is changing.  The biblical principles of loving our neighbor as yourself, loving others as Jesus loved us (even when we were sinners and opposed to Him) should direct our actions when confronted with intolerance.

When you find that your views come in conflict with another person, we can land in a place where we agree to disagree and not bring it to a place of strong judgement and breaking a relationship apart.  After all some of us not long ago may have espoused the same views of the person you now find opposing and judging you.

So, what happened to change our minds?  Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Word and Holy Spirit worked the changes in us.  For almost all of us that started by another Christian’s love and care for us.  Love enough to not give up on the relationship.  Love enough to pray for our soul.  Love enough to trust in the Lord and His time.

We will find in the future the number of times our Christian views and beliefs come into conflict will most likely increase more each year.  Don’t retaliate, but stay the course with how Jesus Christ wishes us to act.

As the poem Mother Theresa had hanging on her wall said.

  • People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
  • If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway
  • If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway
  • If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
  • What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
  • If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
  • The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
  • Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
  • In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

John