UNITY AND THE BODY

Recently I saw a cartoon based on Deuteronomy 27:6 which reads:

“you shall build an altar to the LORD your God of uncut stones. And you shall offer burnt offerings on it to the LORD your God, …”

I then found it on a website of funny Christian jokes:

burnt offering - funny-christian-jokes-christian-humor

The drawing presented this scenario:   A family sitting down to dinner, with heads bowed and hands folded.  Mom and Dad at the ends of the table with Junior on the side between them.  This evening, Junior had been asked to pray.  The expression on the faces of his parents reflects horror when he prays:

“We want to thank you Lord for all that you have given us. In return, I hope you like this burnt offering my Mom prepared for all of us …”

The desire to thank the Lord is wonderful.  The burnt offering analogy is a bit harsh and not at all in the context of what Scripture was directing.

We often see this frequently humorous but still misguided effort from children.  But sometimes we see it duplicated in adults as well. Then, it is not quite so humorous.  

You know, the joke that has too much salt in it not to hurt; the backhanded comment that was not intended for the subject to hear, but they did; the criticism that came from a lack of understanding all the circumstances; and the list could go on and on. 

What do we do then?  Frequently we laugh and shrug it off, as if it did not matter.  But it often does.

Many times, the response is for feelings to get hurt, anger to burst into flames, frustrations fester and relationships can be broken, sometimes irrevocably. While this is indeed unfortunate in our social or work environment, it is heartbreaking when something like this divides the Church.  Not only is it heartbreaking, it is unnecessary.

Hardware Baptist Church established in 1802
Hardware Baptist Church, Charlottesville, Virginia established in 1802

As Christians, we have been touched by the Holy Spirit and He lives within us.  It is His work that convicts us of our sin, teaches us of God’s will, enlightens us as to the Word of God, etc.  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity.  He is just as much God as is the Father and as is Jesus Christ, the Son. 

How the Holy Spirit indwells each and every Christian is beyond my understanding, but it is a doctrine that I believe and I have experienced His work in my life.  So, while I don’t understand the “how”, I understand the “fact”.

Church with cross in front
Illinois church with cross on their building

Since there is only one Holy Spirit, and since He is within each believer, how come Christians often can’t stand each other?   I submit that it is the natural man coming out … the sin nature that all of us have.  After all, Satan does not want the Church to be successful, to be unified, to be fruitful.  It is his desire that no one hears of Christ, that no one remains resolute in their faith, that no one looks to the Lord on a daily basis. 

Church in snow
 Greene Memorial United Methodist Church in Roanoke, Virginia

Instead, we need to be mindful of Paul’s exhortation that we be unified as Christians. 

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”

Ephesians 4:1-7

We as Christians are to be one … one in the spirit, one in the Lord.  But, this does not mean that all are identical.  We are, indeed, all sinners saved by grace.  That is to be sure.  But, we are not clones of each other, although we are all in the process of being transformed into the image of our Lord and Savior.  (See Romans 12:2 and 2 Corinthians 3:18) 

Canterbury cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Rather, the Lord has given each of us varying gifts and talents that are for His use in accomplishing His purpose in the world through us.  Just as our body is not composed of one part, like the lung, neither is the Body of Christ composed of one part, all Christians being the same.  So, there will be differences in worship style, in church buildings, in mission efforts … but the fundamentals are identical – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all. 

Just as all the churches pictured above look different and have varying worship styles and languages, if they honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, if they teach from His Word, if they praise His Name, if they baptize in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, if they praise and glorify God the Father, then we can call them brothers and sisters in the Lord.  The variety of church styles, worship styles, song styles is immaterial as long as the fundamentals are in place.

Don’t let division among Christians cause any to leave the fellowship, cause the church to split, cause brothers and sisters to go against each other in anger.  Through the power of the Spirit, resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Keep the church, the Body of Christ, unified and healthy.

Blessings to each of you as you walk in the way of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Father, I pray that these words will bear fruit for Your Kingdom.  I pray that the Body of Christ will remain strong and vibrant, that it will grow and bear much fruit for the Lord Jesus Christ.  I pray that Satan will be kept away from our churches so that the doctrine will remain pure, so that the parishioners will remain strong, and so that the church’s witness will proceed to go throughout the land untarnished by division or backbiting among its members.

TUNING TOGETHER IN UNITY

We went to the symphony the other evening.  It was an incredible performance, featuring a 29 year old pianist from France.  Both of us were mesmerized by her awesome talent and by the way she and the orchestra mixed and matched each other, with their musical lines intertwining into a beautiful tapestry of sound.

Listen here to “Viam Dei” composed and directed by Jeff Lippencott on the album “Glory to the Holy One”.  

You will notice that each instrument plays a critical part in the overall musical score.  None is wasted.  Some are louder to be sure, but even the little triangle can lend its tone to the beautiful message being created by the entire orchestra.

But, although I have been to a number of concerts over the years and have always seen this happen, what struck me the other evening occurred before the conductor stood on the platform and raised her baton.  It even occurred before the conductor was on the stage. 

As the instrumentalists arrived on stage, they warmed up by practicing various points in the music for the evening, each one running through spots that likely caused problems for them.  The result was a cacophony of sound, not a unified melody or harmonic chord.  The Concert Master, the title for the musician in the position of first chair violin, walked onto the stage and the musicians stopped, silence – no sound from the orchestra. 

oboeThe Concert Master pointed to the oboe player and a clear, pure tone was heard wafting over the instrumentalists.  The various instruments were then tuned to the tone of the oboe.

Whether or not that tone was pitch perfect somewhere else was relatively immaterial (although I suspect it would have been on pitch anywhere, given the skill of our musicians).  The point was, it was to be pitch perfect here, at this point in time, so the musicians tuned their instruments to that pitch and that pitch alone. 

No one said “I’m going to use my pitch!  It’s better!.”  If that had been the case, there would have been discord among the instruments.  All of them needed to be tuned to the same pitch so that the resulting musical presentation would be in harmony.

Later, when a piano was rolled onto the stage for the featured instrumentalist to use for her Concerto, the Concert Master played a note on the piano and the orchestra tuned to that instrument.  After all, it would not do to have the instruments tuned to the oboe if the oboe was not in tune with the piano. 

As I was listening to the musical presentation, which was incredible by the way, I was thinking about how each of the instruments blend together to create the glorious music which we were experiencing. 

orchestra

How like the Church, the Body of Christ.  Scripture teaches us that we are to work together.  We all may have different gifts, talents, interests, abilities – but we are all part of the same Body and our role is important.  Remember the triangle – the percussionist who plays it plays a number of other fascinating instruments in the percussion section and the triangle is by no means the most important one.  But, somewhere deep in the midsection of the piece, there were two measures where the triangle was called for.  He stood and the little triangle was held high, struck the appropriate number of times, and then returned to its hook (or whatever it hangs on) until the next time it was needed.

The instruments that required tuning were all tuned to the same pitch.  In the Body of Christ, each believer in the Lord Jesus Christ is to be tuned to the same pitch as well. 

  • Each and every one of us is to look to the Word of God, the Holy Bible, as the message we are to proclaim. We read what Jesus said and what we are to do in the Scriptures, so it is imperative that each of us knows the Bible and that we each study it as our guide for living the life God desires.
  • Each and every one of us is to look to the Holy Spirit for our guidance, for our message, for our strength and for a proper understanding of the Scriptures.

Remember that Jesus said He would send the Spirit to be with us:

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26 ESV

How would my life be changed if I tuned myself each day to the Scriptures?  How would my church be changed if each member tuned themselves each day to that which the Holy Spirit directed them to say and do?  Unity of mind and of purpose is desired and of paramount importance throughout the Scripture.

“A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”

Psalm 133:1 ESV

“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.”

1 Peter 3:8 ESV

And in Ephesians 4 Paul writes that believers should walk worthy of the calling to which they have been called. 

How is that walk? 

We are to live with humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, because we are eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  Ephesians 4:1-6.

oboe

This week, remember the orchestra and the oboe.  Tune yourself with the Scriptures and walk in faith in the unity and bond of peace with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.

 

Father, enable me to tune my heart to the tone of the Holy Spirit so that I will reflect the image of my Lord and Savior.  May my life be fueled by the Holy Spirit and may I walk in Your way, today and each day that You give to me.