Eight year old Hannah was the task-master, delegating work to Michael and me. He was to pick up the piles of sticks she accumulated with alarming speed and I was to cut away the thorny branches from the “roof.” We set about our jobs happily.
“Isn’t it nice when we all work together?” I asked, smiling down at the two tow-heads amidst leafy green bushes. If only they got along this well all the time, I thought.
If only I was this easy to get along with all the time.
But alas, I am not. More often than not, I seem to be in the middle of conflict rather than peace. I criticize more than cooperate; I am impatient instead of grateful. I want everyone to be just like me — to think like me, to react like I do, to work my way.
Oh wretched sinner that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death?
Christ. And His body.
There is a reason Christ left behind a Church when He ascended into heaven. There was a purpose to the gathering of Christians into a body. That many members, each endowed with the Holy Spirit, when joined together, would know the “fullness of Him who fills all in all.” That in their midst, His presence would dwell and His kingdom be built.
When I become frustrated with other believers, when I find contention, envy, or pride in my heart, when I declare self-sufficiency, it can only mean that once again I’ve become short-sighted. I’ve drawn up my own blueprint for the kingdom of God and it only requires one builder — me.
Thank goodness I don’t call the shots. As soon as I discover I don’t know how to dig a foundation, I’ll be stuck. Instead, in God’s grand design, He’s placed you there to do what I can’t so the divinely inspired plan can be completed.
It’s called a spiritual gift — “the grace given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Ephesians 4:7). And in order to in order to have peaceable, unifying, God-glorifying relationships with other believers, I need to remember that the Church is a body of many members — each unique in it’s own way, but all marvelously complimented to work as a whole. Rather than begrudge you your differences, or pinpoint your weaknesses, I need I need to trust that God is working in you just like He is in me. His Spirit dwells in you and enables you.
If I believe this, I will respond in at least three ways. First, in humility. I need you. I need your boldness when I am timid, your faith when I am doubting, your strengths where I am weak. God has enabled you in ways that He has caused me to need help. Pride will hinder me from asking for your help and thus keep me from being a willing vessel God can use. “For by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Romans 12:3)
What am I doing about my intended purpose? How am I walking worthy of my calling? And how am I endeavoring to keep unity? If we take seriously this responsibility to edify and support each other, conflict will give way to cooperation, impatience to gratefulness, criticism to praise, frustration to teachability. Short-sighted disagreements will lose their importance when the focus is on the glory of God.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10a). So in humility, driven by purpose, and armed with responsibility, I join with you to build God’s fort together. May it be a safe haven where renewed spirits are united in the praise of their head, the Lord Jesus Christ.