Today’s devotion builds on the thoughts from Sunday’s Sermon – Week 7 of “Compelled – Living the Value of Authentic Community” (LISTEN HERE).
Ephesians 4:3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Make EVERY effort…
It’s easier to walk away.
In 25 years of ministry, I have seen people give up on people way too quickly. People get along until they don’t. Instead of doing the hard work to restore the relationship, they move on to another church. (What is interesting is that often this is a pattern in their church relationships.)
Developing and maintaining authentic community is work. Sometimes sin becomes impossible to overcome, but often we take minimal action and call it good.
One situation a person asked for a conversation once with an individual with whom she was at odds. When that request was not granted at the moment it was requested, they left.
To make every effort we have to start with a commitment to one another and to the community to make that effort. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
When you join a church, a community of believers, you are not just signing up for the “perks” of membership, you are signing up for the WORK of membership. You are stating you are willing to devote yourself to these individuals AND make every effort on your part to maintain and strengthen the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace among the group.
So what might that effort look like?
First, remember that every person, including yourself, is battling a sinful nature each and every day. We can choose to put the burden of perfection on everyone else (except ourselves) and when a person is not perfect, especially to us, we can “crucify” them for their faults and allow separation to occur. A much better path is to remember what unifies us is the blood of Jesus. The work of Christ brings us together and will hold us together. When we view people through the lens of the cross, and they do the same for us, we realize that even when our sinful natures gets the better of the situation, it can be addressed and restored under the cross of Christ.
Second, see people as people. We are not perfect. We are not just producers. We are people. We have experiences and emotions. We have strengths and weaknesses. We have spiritual struggles different than yours. We have a story that affects how we perceive the world. We have icebergs underneath our surface that even we don’t always understand. So yes, being in a church at times can be a mess. Take time to get to know people. Refuse to create a story in your own mind as to why someone did something. Have a spirit of curiosity that seeks to understand before seeking to be understood. Take time to get to know the people of your church so you can journey with them and they with you. Build trust. Create a safe place for all of us to show up real and genuine, in need of Christ and growing in Christ.
Third, just don’t give up. Relationships can be hard. They can be messy. You can get hurt. But in the end, like family, it takes a lot to walk away. We give it our all. We stay committed. And in that devotion, we make every effort to maintain and strengthen the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace.
Remember, God does not ask you to do more than what he promises and empowers you to do. Rely on him, and he will give you the strength to make EVERY effort!
Apply: If you have a rift with someone in your church, what can you do today to make an effort to restore that? If you are not in conflict with anyone, great! What person could you invite to coffee or lunch and get to know them better? Schedule someone today!
Prayer: Spirit of God, we ask that you empower us with wisdom, patience, understanding and devotion to do all we can to maintain the unity and peace which you give to our church. AMEN.