Altar Call –
Christians settle their differences and live in
exist among Christians. They always have; they always will. However, when they
are willing Christians can find ways to work together.
put to death partly because of his differences with the religious leaders of his
day. The Pharisees hated Jesus, so much that they looked for ways to kill him.
Eventually, assisted by the political rulers, they had Jesus crucified.
had his differences with other believers. Paul and Peter disagreed publicly. Paul and Barnabas separated after an
argument about John Mark. Yet despite their disagreements, early Christians
found ways to work together.
challenge for Christians in every age is to find a way to love genuinely those
with whom we disagree. Christians are not required to like everyone; they are, however,
expected to love everyone! God offers no alternative to love.
One way to
make room for love is to rejoice in our agreements and celebrate our differences. God has not
made us all alike. He does not expect us to agree on every issue. We can even
laugh about our differences. None
of us is always right.
healthy to admit that you may be mistaken.
Even the wisest person will be wrong sometimes. Wisdom without humility
is an ugly thing.
nearly 60 years of ministry I have watched Christians repeatedly disagree
angrily with each other. There is something in our human nature that causes many
of us to “love a good fight.” Yet all the energy spent in fighting could be used
in ministering to hurting people!
there is an unseen “Evil One” who deceives us. This Evil One is more popularly known as the Devil or Satan. Whatever you call
him, he does seem to be real. And
while he motivates people to do evil things; he also blinds Christians into
thinking that some Christians are their enemies.
So is it
possible for Christians to find harmony with other believers? There is a
way. Christians can find harmony by
coming together around the person of Jesus Christ. There is no other basis of
agreement that can bind Christians together. Doctrine cannot. The Sacraments
cannot. Music cannot. Ritual cannot. Fasting cannot. Traditions cannot.
Ecclesiology cannot. Eschatology cannot. Only our common faith in Jesus can make
us one and keep us one. A major commitment to anything but Jesus rips Christians
are not impressed by obscure theological terms so I try to avoid using them.
However, there is one high-sounding word that seems to express precisely what I
am trying to say. That is the word “Christcentric.” (My spell checker thinks it
is not a word, proving my point.) I first heard it used by the missionary
evangelist E. Stanley Jones.
pointed out that Jesus said, “He that
gathers not with me scatters.” “If this means anything” Jones said, “it
means that we gather around Jesus. If Jesus is Lord, we can transcend all our
other differences and find a unity in a common Lord; but if we don’t do that, if
we gather around something else, however good, we scatter. Chirstcentric we gather;
anything-else-centric, we scatter.”
that for harmony to occur we must put our pet ideas on the margin, not in the
center. Paul put circumcision on the margin. He put eating certain foods, or not
eating them, on the margin. He insisted that what matters is being made “new”
men and women by the power of the gospel. To build unity some things must be
marginalized; the center must be reserved for Christ alone.
If we who
are Christians are to live in harmony, we must stop judging one another. We must
cease despising other Christians. We must stop insisting on having our own way.
The Evil One wins when he can persuade Christians to engage in a power struggle
about what should be marginal issues.
have given us the secret when he said, “Submit
to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). When we learn to
submit to one another we can live in harmony. Paul offers the only workable
motive for submission: “out of reverence for Christ.” When we are submissive in
love to one another, for Christ’s sake, it becomes a noble submission that
pleases God. Think of it this way: we give up the struggle to win so that Christ
is a very important reason why Christians should seek harmony with other
believers. Saint Paul’s warning
sums it up: “We will all stand before the
judgment seat of God,” and “each of
us will be accountable to God.” That is reason enough.
But though we should seek unity, it is
never a human achievement. Our best efforts will not secure it. Only God can
create unity. It is a gift God gives when hearts are right. When giving God
glory becomes more important than putting other people down, then God will give
us unity that nonbelievers will notice. People of other faiths will take
Christianity more seriously when they see how Christians love one another.
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