I have this gadget thingy in my office that doesn’t work. Or more accurately, one that doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to. It’a massager I received as a Christmas gift when I was having trouble with the IT band in my leg following one of my knee replacements. The device was meant to enable me to massage the troublesome area without adding that to my physical therapy visits. It worked fine at first, but then it decided that after about 30 seconds, it had apparently done enough and would simply stop. After that, it would need to be charged for hours — and then it would work again for only another few seconds. To say the least, its blessing was short-lived, sort of like having a huge helping of delicious blackberry cobbler and finding a dead horsefly in the bottom of the dish. So it sits in my office, functioning only as another reason for me to get irritated (which is totally unnecessary, you know, since I have plenty of those doing a pretty bang-up job already).
An Unexpected Connection ~
Okay, I realize that my little piece of handheld exasperation is a minor and insignificant issue at best. But I figured that anything capable of extorting that much of my attention must have a spiritual lesson woven into it somewhere. Sure enough, it helped direct my mind to an issue that isn’t minor at all. It occurred to me that if it bothers me when things don’t work the way they were designed to, maybe God has a similar reaction when the same thing happens to Him. I wonder what He might think about the performance of the Church of Jesus Christ in America right now.
As a nation, we are awash in more crises than we’ve faced at one time in my lifetime. Every day we see new examples of random, unprovoked, and sometimes deadly violence on our streets. Insane economic policies are financially crippling millions of families. There is an invasion of people from around the world pouring into our country and being handed benefits paid for by citizens like us who are trying to survive on our shrinking paychecks. So-called educational and medical facilities are denying parental authority as they expose our children to pornographic material, subject them to sexual and emotional manipulation, and perform unauthorized and often irreversible medical procedures on them.
One Prominent Issue ~
To look at all this and suggest that we who comprise the Church in America are doing our job as Jesus intended would question our capacity for rational thought. Obviously, lots of contributing factors could be pointed out, but given the atmosphere in the country right now, one that is prominent concerns me most. In the weeks leading up to the 2022 Congressional election, we will, no doubt, see an intentionally enhanced and very graphic illustration of what a nation divided against itself looks and feels like. Obviously, that same contentious spirit can invade the Body of Christ and enhance more paralyzing division.
When it comes to carrying out the mission that Jesus commissioned His followers to fulfill, it is impossible to overstate the importance of functional, interactive, unified relationships with one another. Referring back to my frustrating little machine again for a moment, it isn’t enough that the parts are all intact and located inside the case. In order to work properly, the different components also must be properly aligned and connected with one another. None of the parts are just tossed in the case independent of the others. If the unified design breaks down at some point, the power doesn’t reach its objective and nothing moves. Connection failures can cause the entire mechanism to be rendered ineffective and pragmatically useless. Similar failures can have the same effect on the Body of Christ, as well.
Muted and Ineffective ~
It hurts me to say it, but as a whole, the Church in America appears to have become pragmatically ineffective in the matter of resisting sin and repelling the evil practices consuming our people. We have become so fractured, fragmented, disconnected, divisive, and functionally isolated from one another that we have ceased to be seen or thought of as the Church. We are no longer thought of in singular terms. In the minds of most, including many of our own, we are generally thought of as a scattered hodgepodge of mostly small congregations that have little to no interactive, cohesive relationships with one another. Small wonder, then, that if the voice of the Church hasn’t been virtually silenced altogether, it either lacks a coherent message, gets lost in the pointless cacophony of internal squabbling, or is simply ignored.
God was not ambivalent about how important unity is to Him, both in the context of local assemblies and the collective whole. He highlights the necessity of it through directives like these: (see also Philippians 1:27; 3:16; Romans 12:16):
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10 NKJV).
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5–6 NKJV).
Time to Stand Up Together ~
The general culture surrounding us is looking more and more like a spiritually-diseased moral and ethical swamp, and instead of presenting a challenge to that trend, millions are turning away from affiliation with any church or professed religion. Christians, especially those still courageous enough to affirm a belief that the Bible is the authoritative Word of God, are openly mocked. The “woke” crowd lectures us about tolerance and decries any disagreement as “hate speech.” Entertainers, media elites, academic snobs, and internet trolls join them and have a field day making fun of us. Followers of Jesus are disdained by many as ignorant, backward rubes whose opinions are unworthy of serious consideration. It’s time for all of us to climb out of our denominational and ecclesiastical bunkers and take an honest look at the broader picture. It’s also time to stop making excuses and take God’s admonitions about unity personally. Let me share a few practical suggestions to consider as the conflicts escalate in the days and weeks ahead:
- We must be careful to keep the distinctions clear between Biblical issues and purely political ones.
- Remember that spiritual fellowship is to be based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not one’s political choices, denominational affiliation or preferences in worship or music.
- Recognize that unity is not achieved by uniformity. Unity involves the heart, not just the hat we wear or the bumper sticker on our car.
- When disagreements arise, take the core issues to the Word of God and search for solutions there.
- Unity costs, and the sacrifices that come with it begin with us. Unity isn’t achieved by waiting for someone else to take the first step.
- Resist the enemy’s efforts to muzzle us with fear or hamstring us with external appearances. It’s the love of Christ that binds us together, and we are His means of distributing and maintaining it.
A Distorted Image ~
Jesus’ death and resurrection secured the offer of redemption for each of us, but a lost world that didn’t know Him needed to hear that. He chose a group of mostly unrelated people with different backgrounds, skills, and interests to take His message and display His love. In spite of their differences, His Spirit knit them together into one life-transforming, world-changing, cohesive family unit – and every succeeding generation has been offered the same power and tasked with the same mission. But now, a couple of millennia later, we’ve allowed our differences to distort our image and confuse our message. Our assemblies often look more like a fight club than a family.
The love that bound us together through 2,000 years of trials and triumphs still lives, and it can enable each of us to be agents of change in this critical time. It begins by surrendering our personal preferences just as Jesus did before sacrificing everything for us. May God help us to reclaim our unity by joining with Him and declaring once again, “Nevertheless, not my will, but Thine will be done!”
“TWEETABLES” ~ Click to tweet and share from the pull quotes below. Each one links directly back to this article through Twitter . . .
- “To carry out Jesus’ mission for his followers, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of functional, interactive, unified relationships. If the unified design breaks down, the power doesn’t reach its objective & nothing moves.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “It’s time for all of us to climb out of our denominational and ecclesiastical bunkers and take an honest look at the broader picture. It’s also time to stop making excuses and take God’s admonitions about unity personally.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Remember that spiritual fellowship is to be based on a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not one’s political choices, denominational affiliation or preferences in worship or music.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Resist the enemy’s efforts to muzzle us with fear or hamstring us with external appearances. It’s the love of Christ that binds us together, and we are His means of distributing and maintaining it.” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
- “Jesus chose a group of mostly unrelated people with different backgrounds, skills and interests to take His message and display His love. His Spirit knit them together into one life-transforming, world-changing, cohesive family unit. ” @GallaghersPen (Click here to Tweet)
Check out Ron’s book, “Right Side Up Thinking in an Upside Down World ~ Looking at the World through the Lens of Biblical Truth”
The Kindle e-version is just $1.99. No Kindle device is needed. E-book readers are included on most computers, tablets, and smartphones. If you don’t have one, the free Kindle app can be easily downloaded directly from the Amazon site on almost any device.
Click here for a “Look Inside” preview at Amazon.
© 2022 Gallagher’s Pen, Ronald L. Gallagher, Ed.S. All rights reserved.