Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 7 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Authentic Community” (LISTEN HERE).
Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. 11 My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. 12 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?
Which of these descriptions best describes your church?
We’d all like to say we always remember Paul’s words to the Ephesians and cringe to think we would ever have issues like the Corinthians.
But here’s the truth. The reason Paul had to write what he did to the Ephesians is that they too struggled with disunity in their community. The reason Paul wrote what he did to the Corinthians was because there were visible divisions in their community.
The reason the Spirit of God preserved both is because he knew every church would struggle to overcome disunity and find genuine community as a body of believers. That means, no matter what your church is, you will need to be reminded of these words.
We can get fixated on people: “I like Pastor Mark. I like Pastor John. I wish our Pastor could be like the past pastor. I like Frank leading worship. I always go to Larry’s small group.” People, while a blessing to the church can be the focus of one’s participation in the church.
We can get fixated on programs: “I’m an early service person. I’m a traditional person. I’m contemporary. I’m for Kid’s Church. I promote kids being in the worship throughout the service. I’m the ‘need coffee in worship’ people. I’m modern instruments. I’m for the organ. …” The list of programs and preferences that have divided a body of believers is greater than we would care to admit.
If we look to a personality or program other than Christ and his Word, we will never experience unity in the community of believers. Yet we work hard to build unity around externals only to find the unity is superficial and falls apart when the external crumbles.
The heart of authentic community is always…always…Christ.
We don’t worship people. We don’t worship programs. We worship Christ.
We can be blessed by many different people because they point us to Christ.
We can enjoy many different programs and ways of doing things as they point us to Christ.
My preference ought never get in the way of connecting to Christ. When my preference is not preferred, I realize the important thing is our focus on “one Lord, one faith, one baptism…” etc.
There will never be a community of believers that always agrees on every aspect of external realities of people, programs, or preferences. So the focus the Spirit of God gives us (and he should know) is that we always go to the source of unity, Christ himself. From this perspective we view people and evaluate programs. But from this starting point most importantly we look at our brother and sister in Christ. Even if they have differences in style, preferences, or people, we know we can find authentic community with them because their faith is also grounded in Jesus Christ.
Christ is the heart of genuine, authentic community.
Apply: What large or small divisions are brewing/happening in your church? What do you think would happen if that division evaluated the difference based on Ephesians 4:4-6? How might you help get or keep your church focused on “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, etc.”?
Prayer: Lord, forgive me when I get focused on externals and forget our unity is found in you and you alone. AMEN.