A few years ago I had kidney stones. I went to the ER to get things dealt with after dealing with severe pain. It was pretty much a nightmare. After a very long wait I finally was able to see a doctor who gave me some drugs to help with the pain. Powerful pain drugs are a funny thing. They can make you much more apt to speak to strangers. Pretty soon I found myself making friends with anyone who went past my room.
Soon a man who worked at the hospital came to take me to another room for some tests. His name was Lamar. He was a very kind man who had a way with people. He was open to conversation, and was clearly a warm and friendly person. I asked him various questions about his job. I asked if he enjoyed working there. He happily expressed his affirmation to that question. I asked if he enjoyed working with the other people in the hospital. I will never forget his response. “I get along very well with my coworkers here. We need to get along.” I asked him why that was. Lamar replied, “You never know when you are working on a patient whose life may be at stake. The last thing you want in that situation is bad feelings towards the person across from the patient you are working with.” Lamar explained that in order to save lives he needed to have unity with his coworkers.
Boy do I wish we grasped this lesson better. I myself struggle with this far too often. We are so good at developing pointless debates with one another in the church whether they are theological, over building agendas, or some program. We get worked up against each other and shatter our unity. Satan loves for divisiveness to take place. He loves it when people cannot follow a leader. He loves it when two Christians have opposing views and refuse to play nice because of it. He loves it when we hold bitterness and resentment towards each other. Satan loves unresolved conflict.
We are meant to make a difference in this world. We are meant to show this world that there is hope. How can we do that if we cannot get along with one another? I get angry when Christians get petty with one another. It angers me when we need to waste our energies on pointless and unbiblical arguments when we could instead be working together for God.
I’ve had to learn this over the years. Sometimes there are people in the body of Christ that can just be difficult to work with. We are a family full of various personalities, and personalities can clash pretty hard. How do we keep from clashing? How can we focus on encouraging our leaders in their weakness rather than tearing them down? How can we build our brother or sister up even when we are on opposing sides of an issue? How can we set aside our petty disagreements? We need to remember who the head of the body is.
Look at Jesus twelve disciples. Those personalities should have been destined for an explosive event. You have Levi who will do anything for a few bucks including working for Rome as a tax collector. You then have Simon who is a zealot. A fanatic who is part of a political party bent on being free of Rome. These two men should not have gotten along. You have John who is a pretty young guy. You also have Peter who has a habit of needing to put his foot in his mouth. These were twelve men who were all very different. Some had to follow the lead of others even when those leaders made mistakes. Some had to set aside their petty disagreements. Above all else they had to encourage and lift one another up in their failures. They did all of this because Christ was the key to all of those relationships.
I can be really petty sometimes. I can get aggravated when another believer makes a mistake that feels inconvenient to me. We maul each other in our failures to often. We stifle the energetic and creative. A man who is a servant or is creative is not stifled from his failures; he is stifled from the failure of others to lift him up afterwards.
I fear the average Christian struggles with knowing how to work with others in the body of Christ. We have lost some of the natural beauty to the church because of this. A Christian should be able to travel anywhere around the world and find fellow believers to minister to others with. Our petty differences keep us from doing that though.
There is a difficulty to all of this. You have a choice while reading this post just like I have a choice upon writing it. I could have either written this post out of a heart of what I think everyone else around me needs to do, or I could have written this post with the idea of what I need to be doing to make unity happen with others in my life. Your choice is simple. You can read this and think, “I hope so and so reads this and learns from it”, or you can read this and pray to God to reveal to you how you can work side by side with the Simons and Levis in your life. The choice is yours.
A believer who fails to keep unity is a believer who has removed Christ from the center of Christian fellowship.