JOINING OUR HEARTS AND HANDS
During World War II, the number of fighter pilots killed during training was twice those killed during actual combat. Their training probably required so. But Christian warfare is not that way. If we would leave our inter-church and inter-denominational fights and work unitedly in the warfare against the powers of darkness, the Church will grow by leaps and bounds.
If we use our God-given resources the way He wants, He will be glorified and we will be rewarded. If we give up our fights for property, which will anyway not be carried up when Christ comes again, and rather invest that energy, money and time in caring for the real Church, the members of the body of Christ, we will not be ashamed when we stand before Him. Paul says, "To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you" (1Cor.6:7)-whether you win the case or lose is another issue. So, if we resolve our court cases by withdrawing them, we shall be victorious in God's eyes! And if that money goes not to the advocates but missionaries, many more labourers will also join to reap the plentiful harvest.
But we like to feel 'good' about our church-being doctrinally perfect, founded by a man of God, having flawless practices, with most spiritual and gifted preachers-thereby thinking other churches are flawed, and having a limited understanding of the Bible. We return home looking down on other denominations. Even within the same church, one committee or group thinks itself more important than others, one family within that group sees itself as better off than the rest, and one member of the family sees the faults of the other, brother, sister or spouse! "I am holier than thou."
Allegiance To Christ
Surely we must be planted in a church that teaches God's Word and obeys it in all matters of faith and practice, where we can worship and grow spiritually. This does not mean we let that divide us from other parts of the body of Christ, believers in other denominations. We ought to obey God's Word, but not boast about our obedience. Practices like removal of shoes, wearing jewels, the uniform of Pastors, the musical instruments used, how old or new songs are sung, for how long, the architecture of the building, number of members and who's who, etc., are not worth being proud of. Paul says, "Far be it from me to glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Gal.6:14). His death for us deserves to be the sole subject of our boasting, and not our rituals or method of sacraments, how often we partake in the Lord's Supper, how many gifts we have or how we worship. It is our hearts and minds that God looks at, and our motives that He weighs (Jer.17:10). Our allegiance to our church founder cannot outweigh our allegiance to Christ (1Cor.1:12,13).
The Bible talks about one who was "full of wisdom and perfect in beauty." He wanted to ascend higher and higher, but was thrown down to the depths of the pit. "Your heart was proud because of your beauty and you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour" (Ezek.28:12,17). The Bible also tells about One, "though in the form of God, He emptied Himself, became a servant, humbled, obedient unto death, even death on a cross." Therefore God has highly exalted Him, with a name above every name (Phil.2:6-11). This mind Paul exhorts us to have, in humility to count others better than ourselves (v.3-5). The rule of God's kingdom is, "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Lk.18:14).
In heaven there will be no compartments for existing as a 'separate' or 'gifted' church; for we are one body, the Bride of Christ. And we will see the marks of His wounds which will remind us that He hung on the cross "and has made us both (Jews and Gentiles) one and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility--that He might create in Himself one new man--thereby bringing the hostility to an end" (Eph.2:14-16). And if the great divide, that God Himself had called for the Jews to be separate, is broken down in Christ, what else can stand? For, when the Gentiles were incorporated into the Church, Peter himself says, "If then God gave the same gift to them as us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could withstand God?" (Acts11:17).
God sees us believers as living stones in a spiritual house, built for Him a dwelling place, through the Spirit-one house, not many according to denominations or whatever.
Now if we are uncomfortable with others different from us, and repel like similar poles of a magnet, how can we fit into our place for God's building? But we are to grow up, into the Head, Christ, from whom the whole body is joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, and grows and upbuilds itself in love" (Eph.4:15,16). "How good, how pleasant for us to dwell together in unity" (Psa.133:1)! "Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph.4:2,3).
Recently, George Verwer said in a meeting in Ahmedabad, "We all are like flowers in God's garden, Methodist flowers, Presbyterian flowers--our God is a God of variety."
God's Word is perfect, written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. We often give importance to the things which the Bible does not, and base our 'doctrines' on a handful of verses, while neglecting the fact that is so much emphasised all through the New Testament that He wants us to be united in love-to the end that His kingdom will expand. "By this all men will know that you are My disciples if you have love for one another" (Jn.13:35). For the Church to increase, we must look for people, not of another 'church' (sheep-stealing), but those outside.
The story is said of a labourer in the tall grasses of Africa, who lost her child amidst the grasses. They searched everywhere, but in vain. At night, they decided to resume the search in the morning. Someone suggested they hold hands and walk in a straight line all through the field. They finally found the baby, but having been exposed to nature all night, he lay dead. The mother took him up in her arms and cried, "If we had held our hands yesterday, my child would not have died!"
In our efforts to reach the plentiful harvest with the Gospel, we can reap much fruit if we work in God's way, hand in hand. Someone has said, "None of us is as strong as all of us." The key to success is obedience to His command-love. We may not agree with everyone about everything, but we are children of the same Heavenly Father, through His Son Jesus Christ, indwelt by the same Holy Spirit, who all desire that we be united like them. That is the prayer of our Lord Jesus for us, "That all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You. May they also be in Us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me" (Jn.17:21). Let us love one another, as Christ loved us, just as we are. Let not our fights be among ourselves, like the WW II fighter pilots, for whatsoever reason, but against the enemy, against the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, putting on the whole armour of God, thereby striving not to divide, but expand the kingdom of God.