Dear Members of the Body of Christ,
It’s no stretch to say that our country is deeply divided along ideological lines. Just yesterday (as I write this), Anthony Kennedy announced he would be retiring from the Supreme Court, triggering intense hysteria or hope around various significant cultural issues like abortion, marriage, and religious liberty. Here in Illinois we’re gearing up for another raucous campaign season, following years of intense back and forth between various elected officials over budgets, promises kept and broken, etc. And there’s so much more…
You and I are all in the middle of all of this. As Christians we find ourselves citizens of heaven, yet still earthly citizens. We have our various viewpoints, philosophies, and opinions on various issues. To a certain extent we are free to hold these, though we are called to always listen to God’s Word and humbly allow Him to teach us how we are to live. So there are some limits to our viewpoints, though the temptation is constant to stand less-than-firmly on God’s Word in one way or another. In this we should be constant in prayer. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)
Another great temptation is to be divided by these worldly opinions and philosophies, and lose sight of the unity that we have in Christ. Certainly when it comes to salvation, we know that no one can save another or believe for another. “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” (Ezekiel 18:20) Yet having been justified by Jesus’ blood, having been born again through water and the Spirit, we are now members of one Body: the Body of Christ. There are not two bodies, but one body. To overstate it a bit, there is no “I” in Church. But there is definitely a “we,” and “us.”
Scripture is filled with passages that aren’t addressed to us individually, or that don’t speak about us as individual Christians, but instead as a Body or as a group. It’s helpful to hear these passages to consider how we don’t approach Christ and His Church to make sure it meets our individual preferences or wants but instead we are one part of a whole. Not just a whole in the here and now, either, but part of a whole Body of believers that stretches back to the first Gospel promise and will continue into eternity!
Let’s hear some of these passages, and allow our Lord to teach us how to be a Body, a “we” and “us” Church and not an “I” church.
- Acts 2:42–47 (ESV): And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
- Galatians 6:9–10 (ESV): And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.
- Ephesians 4:1–6 (ESV): I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you [Note: the “you”s are plural: “all y’all”] 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.
- Ephesians 4:11–13 (ESV): And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…
- Colossians 2:1–3 (ESV): For I want you [Note: the “you”s are plural] to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together [Note: “knit together” – quite a we/us concept!] in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
- Hebrews 10:19–25 (ESV): Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
Dear friends, I pray these passages will encourage and strengthen you in the knowledge that we are in this together. Jesus Christ has joined us through one Baptism into His one Body. We have need of one another. Let’s listen to His Word together. Let’s come to the Altar to be fed together. If a member of the Body is missing, call out to them: “We have need of you!” I’ll repeat the exhortation from Hebrews, since it’s so crucial: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Love in Christ,