November 4, 2011

Spiritual Disciplines XXVIII: Being One In Spirit And Of One Mind

"Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Philippians 2:1-4

Proving A Brother Wrong or Correcting Him

Are there fellow believers you want to prove or show to be wrong rather than correcting them? Are you failing to love them or just trying to keep them from turning to the right or to the left? At times there are brethren I need to show are in biblical error but I do not feel the desire to prove them wrong. The issue is discerning between a need to correct and a sinful desire to prove wrong or tromp another person into the dirt. That is just sinful. I try to match up what I’ve discerned as biblical error and I try to point it out in an impartial manner to help others in their walk. I do this after I try to build them up. Everyone knows the old adage: Compliment, constructively criticize, compliment. I have found this to be difficult even in the most gentle manner and situations. It is nearly always viewed as being judgmental or immature of me when I do it.

These attitudes often come in forms of condescension from folks that often view themselves as “mature” or “nearing completion” in the faith because they behave in a manner they feel is befitting of a developed believer. What I find though is that many are not receptive to correction or corrective criticisms because quite frankly…they do not believe they are in error and therein the trap is set by Satan. If we are not willing to listen and accept correction even from laity rather than listening and just paying lip service then correction becomes a tenuous thing. I have found that if there is no unity of mind before the rebuke or correction, there will certainly be none or less afterwards. Since silence is not an option in these situations and direct routes often cause friction, I am left with asking provocative probing questions to force others to think for themselves and possibly recognize their own error just as Jesus did with the Pharisees. Even in these situations, just as with the Pharisees, some just don’t “get it”…it couldn’t possibly be them making the error because (dare I say it) they are too holy. Being a spiritual person is fine. The danger in spiritualism is the brother that crosses the line from being Nicodemus who was willing to still listen and learn to being Caiaphas who was only willing to look down on people and condemn them in piousness and arrogance. I imagine I will catch hell for this post now. Please understand that I include myself in this criticism. I too fall victim to it.

Unity At All Cost = Compromising Truth

Unity at all costs without biblical adherence nearly always ends in an unbiblical compromise. Many equate ecumenicalism and unity in the body of Christ as nearly synonymous. Many assume that if people do not acquiesce to unity at all costs, that person is either marginally Christian or not very loving. I can handle ecumenicalism in Christianity if it does not water down the truth of the Gospel or Scripture or go contrary to Scripture. Sadly, this is nearly never the case. It has nearly always been my experience that the truth of God’s Word is somehow compromised when attempting ecumenicalism. This is true in the broad realm of Christianity and even more so when dealing with other faiths or interfaithism. I have found that the ones that usually scream the loudest about others being unfair are those that have the doctrinal errors, outright heresies, or unbelief of Christianity in their statements of faith or faith system and they are the ones protesting most loudly to be accepted with their errors left intact. This is why ecumenicalism usually ends in failure. Often times the division in the church is because many denominations went unbiblical a while ago and that is exactly there is disunity. In the case of other faiths...they never were biblical or Christian. They are separate because those division were already caused long ago and it was determined what was being practiced was either unorthodox, neo-orthodox, heretical or not even Christian. Sorry folks, there are not a myriad of ways to Heaven or the Father. Not all belief systems lead to a real God. Every belief system will tell you that they have the only path to heaven or they have one of the paths to heaven but logic dictates that only one religion can make claim to an absolute God of absolute truth, the rest would have to be liars or deceivers.

When we revisit the attempt to unify the biblical church with and unbiblical one it is the same error or heresy being revisited in an attempt to gain acceptance. In my opinion there is a reason these factions and denominations with doctrinal errors were relegated to the periphery or ostracized to begin with…because they were wrong. On the other hand, if these doctrinal errors do not come into play in attempts to unify the Body of Christ then I see nothing wrong with it. As I have said before though…this is rarely the case.

Supernatural Reconciliation

Anyone that now knows my conversion story know that I was reconciled to my neighbor after 12 plus years of hatred and animosity towards my neighbor and it happened in a matter of days. My neighbor actually joked that until I found Christ he had never seen a miracle. That is supernatural reconciliation. Since that day years ago I have seen many other things happen that I cannot account for through naturalistic or evidential means. Some things are just not explainable without attributing them to God acting providentially in my life and other’s lives. Sometimes the only explanation is supernatural.

As we are often sinful and selfish in our outlooks in life we sometimes alienate people from ourselves that really should be close to us in a fellowship capacity. If we have driven them away it will usually require reconciliation. Human relationships are anything but perfect, too many sins get in the way, pride, envy, arrogance, etc. Because we cannot have perfect unity even as Christians there will be times when we will certainly need to lower ourselves in humbleness to achieve harmony with others by serving others in the faith that we do not see eye-to-eye with. If we are doing what we should in a biblical manner in the faith it will be rare as Christians that we will need a supernatural reconciliation with others within the faith. I certainly imagine it is happening when trying to convert the non-believer though. Why? Because every person that comes to Christ is a supernatural reconciliation of a fallen and condemned person back into the presence of a holy God! You don't actually think its anything you do, do you? I mean seriously people. In our conversion we achieve eternal life through Christ. Is there any other supernatural reconciliation that is more important?

Competition Among The Brethren

Competition in or between churches is a double-edged sword. Competition can cause a stronger unity and understanding or it can rip a body apart. It can serve a possible positive purpose or it can be destructive and cause irreparable division. It takes a wise person to manage healthy competition within churches to foster constructive competition in things like encouraging Scripture memorization and/or fellowship involving sports or games. The competition though should never take the place of true koinonia and spiritual connection. On the flip side of this is fierce competitiveness that is akin to the leadership disputes in Corinth as outlined in 1 Corinthians 1:12. Arguing an fighting amongst ourselves is not productive for the purpose of the Gospel so it should be avoided at all cost. We are not of Apollo or Paul or the New England Patriots or the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Monday night bowling league, blah, blah, blah to the point of causing animosity. Once the stakes of the competition are raised to this level it is too costly to the body and should be prevented.

We are of Christ and only of Christ. As I said in one of my last posts: All for The One and The One for us all. We are all different and unique but we also know that some things just work better together than apart.

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