weekly theme #28 Life Together*
week containing the seventh Sunday of Easter
God designed us to live in harmony. I am to be in harmony with him, others, creation, and myself. Becoming who God wants me to be is not an individual affair. The fourth chapter of Ephesians has a lot to say about God’s gifts to the church, and verse thirteen says we become mature, full-grown, and measuring up to the full stature of Christ through using those gifts in unity for the good of the church. I am both an individual and a member of the community, the Bride of Christ. I need to embrace both and find comfort in both – even though there can be pain in both.
I picture Paul as a tough, perhaps gruff, young man. His letters contain some fierce words and scathing rebukes, but I think he mellowed as he aged. Not that he lost his passion or standards, but Paul’s spirit softened and his love flowed more easily and with more clarity. The book of Philemon witnesses to that idea. I hope I mellow as well, for the good of unity.
How well I love my Christian family members is a strong indication of how I love God. Paul offers an example of how the Christian family should sacrifice for each other in the sixth chapter of first Corinthians. He proposes that it is better to forgive another Christian who has wronged me than to make the “family disagreement” a matter of public record. If a member of my Christian family wrongs me, I have the opportunity to respond like Jesus rather than like the world. What do I value so much that would make me choose being unforgiving rather than being like Christ?
My ill-delivered zeal for unity among Jesus’ disciples has actually caused division. The change I long for in the Body of Christ, from independence to inter-dependence, will not take place through words that condemn but words that compel. Moreover, my actions must show unity and love. No matter how mature I am in my Christian life, I can have confidence that my every attitude, act, and belief is less than perfect. If I convince myself differently, it hinders further maturity and growth. Rather than clutching to my imperfections, I need to cultivate the ability to change my mind, behavior, and attitude when it is clearly God’s will for me to do so. (adapted from Liberation of Life by Harvey & Lois Seifert)
Paul said we need each other, but the breadth of his meaning is greater than I first thought. Romans 12:5b says, “And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.” I belong to other believers, and I need all of them. No member of the body is optional; they are all mission critical. I don’t just need the Rock-Star members; I need the humble, meek, quiet members, too. In fact, God does not long for Rock-Star Christians to give a performance as much as he longs for his Bride to be ready for the wedding.
A thought about balance is a fitting close to this week’s long-winded piece. In this unity, there is a place for solitude. Without times of solitude with the Lord, unity can begin to feel clingy, overwhelming, and even parasitic. I can know unity is always there even when I am not in the midst of it. Solitude increases my love for unity.
*A Guide To Prayer by Job and Shawchuck provided the scripture references and readings that inspired these reflections. I found this devotional to be the most heart changing of any I’ve used. It truly lives up to its title.