by Mike Ratliff
1 Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3 (NASB)
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 So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. 14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:12-14 (NASB)
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 also you were called in one hope of your calling; 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 to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Ephesians 4:4-7 (NASB)
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 really do this sort of thing?
5 When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. 6 He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. 7 Thus Shimei said when he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! 8 The Lord has returned upon you all the bloodshed 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. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!”
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 now and cut off his head.” 10 But the king said, “What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” 11 Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. 12 Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.” 2 Samuel 16:5-12 (NASB)
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 this 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 our message?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
And like a root out of parched ground;
He has no stately form or majesty
That we should look upon Him,
Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.
6 All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him.
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
Yet He did not open His mouth;
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
So He did not open His mouth. Isaiah 53:1-7 (NASB)
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 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing. 10 For,
“The one who desires life, to love and see good days,
Must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit.
11 “He must turn away from evil and do good;
He must seek peace and pursue it.
12 “For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous,
And His ears attend to their prayer,
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 1 Peter 3:8-12 (NASB)
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 especially since this ministry began. 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 are 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?
Soli Deo Gloria!