The post I put up last night troubled me throughout the night. As I considered the advance of Islam in Europe and North America, I pondered the state of the Church. Christianity is rapidly declining in Europe. And America is close behind. Of course, part of the problem is that we are not bringing our children up to embrace a Christian worldview. As has been reported time and again, denomination after denomination has found that young adults who have been brought up in Christian homes are leaving the church in droves. This must be addressed.
And as we saw in the video, we are having fewer children. The result is not just fewer people to purchase merchandise and expand the economy, but fewer Christians.
Then there is another problem: Factions and schisms within the church. Islam has few “denominations.” For the most part, it is one religion – with one mission. And the fulfillment of this mission overrides the differences in the few factions of Islam.
But not with Christianity. I am not saying we should all run back to Rome and pray for a Charles Martel, but should we not strive to achieve the unity for the sake of the Great Commission instead of arguing over petty differences? Too often, instead of seeking to win the lost and teach the Truth, we spend our time tearing down our own brothers and sisters—Christ’s own Body.
For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:3-4)
Our situation reminds me of a story from the life of David. When David was a young lad Israel was at war with the Philistines. And the situation looked bleak. David was sent by his father to the front to take supplies to his brothers. When David arrived, he heard of the trouble and of the blasphemous Goliath. And David’s passion for the Lord swelled—he wanted to get into the battle.
Upon hearing of his brother’s boldness, Eliab, the eldest brother, chided David. He questioned his motives. He questioned his qualifications.
But David’s reply was simple – “Is there not a cause?” You can read all about this in 1 Samuel 17.
We have denominations for a reason. Of course, they are in a way scandalous. Jesus, in His high priestly prayer in the Gospel of John, prayed that we would be one. He noted that this unity, this oneness, would testify of Jesus’ deity and of His Lordship over all.
But what do we do with divisions? What do we do with disagreements? What do we do with differences?
John Piper wrote a short, but powerful article on this topic recently. I encourage everyone to seriously consider his words…
1. Avoid gossip
The New Testament warns against gossiping. The Greek word translated “gossip” means whisper or whisperer. In other words, the focus is not on the falsehood of the word but on the fact that it needs to be surreptitious. It is not open and candid and forthright. It has darkness about it. It does not operate in the light of love. It is not aiming at healing. It strokes the ego’s desire to be seen as right without playing by the rules of love. For I fear that perhaps when I come I may find…that perhaps there may be quarreling, jealousy, anger, hostility, slander, gossip, conceit, and disorder. (2 Corinthians 12:20)
2. Identify evidences of grace in each other and speak them to each other and about each other about that grace.
The church in Corinth was deeply flawed. But Paul found reason to thank God for them because of “the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:4). The most flawed pastor on this staff—and we are all flawed—is a work of grace. It honors Christ, and keeps criticism in perspective, to see it and say it often.
3. Let’s speak criticism directly to each other if we feel the need to speak to others about it.
The point is not that we will always agree on everything, especially the practical application of shared principles. Paul’s word in Romans 12:18 is, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” It may not be possible, but we should try.
4. Let’s look for, and assume, the best motive in the other’s viewpoint, especially when we disagree.
When Paul deals with disagreement in Romans 14, one of the things he appeals to is that those with opposite practical convictions have identical heart-motives. “The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God” (Romans 14:6). Christ-honoring passions, Paul says, can unite us in spite of differences of application.
5. Think often of the magnificent things we hold in common.
“But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation say continually, “Great is the Lord!” (Psalm 40:16) To mention a few things we hold in common: the Elder Affirmation of Faith, the sovereignty of God, the supremacy of his glory in all things, the majesty and meekness of Christ, the all-sufficiency of his saving work, the precious and very great promises summed up in Romans 8:28 and 8:32, the value and sweetness of the Bible, the power and patience of the Holy Spirit in transforming us, the hope of glory, a profound biblical vision of manhood and womanhood, a common global mission to see the nations know Christ…
6. Let’s be more amazed that we are forgiven than that we are right.
And in that way, let’s shape our relationships by the gospel. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you…. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2) “The one who is forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). In other words, think more of your own sins and how amazing it is that God saved you than you do about the other person’s flaws.
Great words, Pastor Piper.
And now, dear friends, is there not a cause? Let us pray that the Lord raise up Charles Martels in each home, those who will defend the faith. May we all be part of the army of the Lord, armed not with swords of steel, but with the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.