Conviction has fallen hard on my heart lately. Maybe it’s because after over two years here, we are without a church home still. In that, my eyes have been opened and my heart pierced at a deep realization: the body of Christ isn’t about who you sit in a building with on Sunday.
The body of Christ is ALL believers everywhere. We are not called to love and serve those whose seats sit alongside us on Sunday mornings, but instead, we are called to love and do life with and serve whenever the opportunity is given, to both believers and non-believers.
I never didn’t get this before, but I get it now. Differently. Deeply.
This doesn’t mean we will always agree on everything. There are certainly open-handed things that we can differ in our thinking on that should not divide us. We should be able to lovingly disagree. There are things that should be closed handed like things that reflect the heartbeat of the gospel’s truth that will certainly in wisdom require we not be united in. They reflect an honoring of our way over where God and the authority of scripture have taken a stand, but if we can’t lovingly disagree among ourselves and serve each other after, how will we ever be able to serve a broken world?
This is something that has been made clear to me over the last 10 plus years I’ve served in ministry. People are really good at building up their own kingdoms- even inside the walls of a church. They are in control. They give the final say on the way they think things should be. They own the spotlight. They bathe in it and need the adoration that comes in their own kingdom and they lay up their treasure in their kingdom. We are all guilty of this to some degree. We have to get our eyes off of ourselves in order to see that what we think and prefer doesn’t matter. What God says matters. What the gospel says and how we relate that to how we live with and value people – not just what they can give or contribute – that reflects where our treasure is being built up and how we value what the physical body of Christ was actually broken for.
“Death either takes you from your treasure or to it.” Levi Lusko said this in the sermon I shared a link to in my last post. In considering what the body of has been called, I realize more and more that it’s not about making a clubhouse of people who only want to engage each other in comfort. We are to challenge and spur each other on to good works. We are to love each other, no matter what.
That means honoring the Lord and His word first so that we never see people through the filter of our opinions. If we can’t do this for those who are already our brothers and sisters in Christ, how will we ever do this for the world that doesn’t know His love? How can we ever engage them if we just look at people and think about what is different from us and what we think and want? That’s one of the places the truth of the gospel is so important. Our way doesn’t matter in it.
What would your life look like today if whoever shared the gospel with you looked at you and thought, “I don’t like that this person (sleeps around/is so arrogant/lies/has a temper/insert your own sin struggle here),” so they walked away and never shared the gospel with you? If we can’t love the whole body, no matter where we go on a Sunday morning, how are we ever going to love and therefore reflect the gospel to a dying world because they sin differently than us? If we can’t love those already belonging to the body of Christ, we will never love those outside of it who desperately need to know God’s love. We will also never know how to relate to them. If we sit in our kingdoms and just assume what the world thinks of us and gather up reasons to not engage those right in front of us, we have failed to see people as God sees them. I think sometimes it’s easier to travel to a different part of the globe and see the need for lovingly living the gospel than it is to do the same thing at the grocery store or at a restaurant or at a nail salon. That time in the mission field feels set apart. We operate differently in it. I wonder how we would relate to the world if we lived like there is a priesthood for all believers and our greatest ministry was how we lived and loved each day?
So much in what divides many of us is vanity. It’s appearance. It’s preference. That is sin. That is honoring what you want over what God actually says. Francis Chan said something once that gave me a new lens of perspective: “No matter how you feel about your sin compared to others, it still killed Jesus!” We sit and look at ourselves through filters that make us forget this. When we forget this we forget that we need the gospel beyond the moment we accepted Christ. We need it everyday.
This is why it’s so important to see the bigger picture. “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” – Matthew 22:36-40.
If we are deciding that we only want to do life with those who sit in the same buildings, have the same preferences we have decided are right which are valued with greater authority than the word of God, we are not loving God first, and we are certainly not loving our neighbors as ourselves.
The good news in this is that every breath is a second chance. Every minute is an opportunity to get passed ourselves and on to loving someone else deeply and well. People don’t have to think like you, be in the same religion, love God, or even like you in order for you to be loving to them. It’s actually more a reflection of the gospel lived by Christ through persecution, scourging, mocking, and crucifixion if we can love people who treat us badly or blow us off or say false things about who we are.
I pray for the grace to keep my eyes open to the bigger picture and off of myself. I pray I don’t get my eyes so much on myself that I neglect the gospel in the tunnel vision of my preferences or wants. I pray for opportunities to serve others anywhere and everywhere, no matter where we attend on Sunday morning. I pray that we would push down the spiritual walls of our churches and see the body of Christ as so much bigger than the physical walls that divide us week in and week out.