“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God,” [Romans 15:5-7]
“As you come to him, the living Stone -- rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him -- you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message -- which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy,” [1 Peter 2:4-10]
“…pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you,” [2 Thessalonians 3:1]
“I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt,” [Zechariah 1:16]
I once heard an excellent message at the North American Christian Convention by Jon Weiss. The whole point of his sermon reached its bottom line when he said, “The church is not a “what” (issues that we discuss and over which we may disagree) “but a “Who” (Jesus). He went on to say, “If we spent all of our time concerned with the “Who,” then the “what” wouldn’t be nearly as important because the ‘Who’ would be the ‘what’ and the ‘what’ would follow the ‘Who’ and the ‘what’ would become the ‘Who’ and not the ‘what’ which usually takes the place of the ‘Who,’ and we could be completely about the ‘Who’ and not the ‘what’ and the world would see the ‘Who’ and not how we argue over the ‘what’ and we would no longer be ‘what’ but ‘Who’ and most of you are saying at this point: What?”
Much of what we disagree about has to do with the “what” or “how” questions. Few of us actually disagree over the “Who” questions. Most of us would agree that the Church belongs to Jesus Christ. And most of us would agree that church must honor Him and lead the lost to Him. But our most cherished feelings usually follow the “what” questions, not the “Who.” Some would disagree with that, but when all is said and done, the church IS Jesus. It is His body, His bride, of which He is the Head. All things were created by Him and for Him. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. He is Savior, Judge, Deliverer, Redeemer and the Focus of our worship. We all agree about these things. And yet, we have such difficulty seeing eye-to-eye at times. I am often at a loss when we think about the “what” questions, especially when those questions don’t first follow the “Who.” We all remember the popular “What would Jesus do” (WWJD) bracelets that came out in the 90’s. A few days ago, I saw a bumper sticker that somewhat mocked this sentiment by saying, “What would Scooby Doo?” All too often, the world knows too much about how the church can’t get along. Being a minister, I wonder myself why it’s so hard sometimes for Christians to get along. But we have a very clever enemy. He knows how to push our buttons in such a way that our perceptions (which are sometime wrong) get the best of us and we become ready to attack one another. And we forget that we are building the House of the Lord.
When I was in Ukraine, I was able to talk to many Christians who endured the winds of persecution that swept through the Soviet Union. The Marxist-Leninist philosophy of the government believed that all religion was a “sickness” that needed to be eradicated. So the KGB would often infiltrate a church (the same way Satan does) by pretending to be Christians. They would say that they were from another city or would actually pretend to become Christians. They knew their subject group very well and knew how to act out the part. Then, after they had established trust among some of the members, they would begin sowing seeds of doubt among the church by starting completely invalid rumors: “Have you noticed how the pastor looks at that woman? I wouldn’t doubt they they’re having an affair…” or “where does the offering money go? Are we sure that so-and-so isn’t taking some for herself?” The KGB knew that there were questions that would cause far more damage than direct persecution ever could. They noted that hardship caused by persecution would only cause the Church to grow. But by changing their tactics, they could cause any church to destroy itself –without wasting too many resources in the process.
Our enemy is very clever. If we are distracted, then the Great Commission becomes a secondary or tertiary issue (or is even completely neglected). A little poison won’t outright kill a plant, but it can stunt its growth, eventually causing more far-reaching damage than outright killing the plant. But Jesus made a solemn promise to us:
"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples,” [John 15:5-8].
So, once again, it’s not the “what” that causes a church to thrive; it’s the “Who.” And our ability to accept one another will truly define who we are, before our King and in the eyes of the world. If we are to fulfill our mission of loving God, loving others and serving the world, then we all have to give ground to gain ground at times. I guess the ultimate question is not “what” or “how” but “Whom” we serve. When it comes to the questions of “what,” I have to confess, I am often at a loss. I would much rather commit all of my energy to our “Who” –Who can solve every “what” problem that we will ever encounter.
On the Solid Rock we stand!