by Mike Ratliff
1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)
While the most common accusation against my friends at CRN is that their expositions cause disunity amongst the brethren, the call from the Word of God is not unity at all costs, but unity within the Body of Christ in the Spirit in the bond of peace. The key to having unity among Christians is not that all claim to be Christians, but that the Holy Spirit bestows oneness within all true believers through which He creates a bond of peace that is godly love for one another.
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12-14 ESV)
In our “Christian” environment today there seems to be little of this going on. I have seen this type of close intimate love within churches of which I was a part. However, I have also seen and been part of some disagreements with many professing Christians that seemed to be on the verge of escalating into fights to the death. What is wrong? Why does this happen? There are the obvious cases of people calling themselves Christian who are in the throes of apostasy. When we deal with these we must be discerning and stand on the truth from God’s Word while relying on the Holy Spirit to sustain and guide us. However, many of our “battles” seem to be over silly doctrinal differences that have very little, if any, value to the body of Christ right now. Those of us who are truly His must take a higher road.
4 There is one body and one Spirit-just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call- 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. (Ephesians 4:4-7 ESV)
All in Christ are of one body and one Spirit. We all have the same hope which belongs to our call. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and one Father of all. If we are having disagreements that bring disunity within this body then it must be coming from an outside source. Notice that this passage says that our God is over all and through all and in all. He is totally sovereign. He is omnipotent and omniscient. He has not lost control. He knows what is going on. Has he allowed accusers, false brethren, or goats, to enter into the visible body of believers for His own purposes? Does God do this sort of thing?
5 When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. 6 And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. 7 And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! 8 The Lord has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.”
9 Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look on the wrong done to me, and that the Lord will repay me with good for his cursing today.” (2 Samuel 16:5-12 ESV)
David is not a perfect person. He was fleeing Jerusalem because his son Absalom was seeking his life. This sad situation came upon the house of David because of God’s judgment against him for the killing of Uriah the Hittite and the marrying of his wife, Bathsheba. David was an adulterer and a murderer. However, he was still God’s anointed on the throne of His people. David was a man after God’s own heart. In the incident with Shimei, David shows remarkable spiritual maturity. The others wanted to kill the man, but David saw that God had allowed this and was using It for His purposes, therefore, he would do nothing to his man because he saw that God was in it. Do we do this? When dogs and wolves and goats attack us in ways that seem to be “for no reason whatsoever” when we are in the middle of serving our Lord, how do we respond? Here is our Lord’s example.
1 Who has believed what they heard from us?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
and no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:1-7 ESV)
Our Lord Jesus Christ fulfilled this prophecy exactly. He was abandoned, beaten, ridiculed, scourged and crucified. All through this He did not accuse His accusers. In fact, he forgave them on the cross. Are we called to the same spiritual level?
8 Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. 9 Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Peter 3:8-12 ESV)
Yes, we are called to not repay evil for evil. We are not to revile those who revile us. Instead, we are called to bless those who abuse us. No, we never compromise the truth, but when the accusations become personal, we must not participate. I am convinced that I have blown this myself more times than I can count over the past several months or even years. I am guilty of repaying in kind. I confess this to you now and I repent of it. I pray that the Lord will forgive me and use me to shine Christ’s light of love into the lives of all of those whom He uses to test me.
What will it be then? Are we to continue in modeling the ways of the world or we going to go to the next level with our Lord? That requires a letting go of our “rights.” It requires a deeper faith. Only those whose faith is right with God can believe Him and obey Him in this. Those with little faith are self-dependent and will defend self against all comers. We must forsake this though. Oh Lord, help our faith! Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts that believe and trust You. In our Saviour on the cross we see our example. We must deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Him. If we will do this then Unity in the Body of Christ will not be damaged, but enhanced. On top of that, we will be further down that narrow way that leads to life. Who will go with me?
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