True and False Disciples

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” – Jesus

As I read Matthew 7 this morning, this verse caught my eye. Actually, the heading above this verse that the NIV publishing people added caught my eye. It read “True and False Disciples”.

I found this concept interesting. We frequently hear about true and false prophets and teachers – in fact, Jesus has just been talking about false prophets the verse before – but I don’t know that I’ve ever heard the phrase “true and false disciples”.

A “false” anything is never good. Whenever we read about “false” people in the Bible, they are masquerading as something true and pure, usually purposefully (though not always) conniving to trick people into believing they are the real deal.

Can “disciples” do that? Can people pretend to be Christ followers but not really be believers? And, if so, are those who are “false disciples” always aware they are faking it, or do some of them genuinely believe they are biblical Christians?

The “false disciples” in this verse and the next are characterized as being people who a) believe Jesus exists, b) revere Him in some way, c) do supernatural things, like drive out demons and perform miracles, “in His name”, meaning they d) believe they are doing things that honor Him or, at the very least, require His lending them His authority and power (Matthew 7:21-22).

Why in the world, then, would Jesus reject these people, indicating in no uncertain terms that they are not true followers of Christ (Matthew 7:23)?

Jesus tells us why he would reject these people (and anyone else) back up in verse 21: they did not do the will of His Father in heaven.

How did they not?! They did all kinds of Christiany things. How can Jesus say they weren’t doing the Father’s will, and why does that have bearing on their salvation if we are saved by grace through faith and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9)?

Jesus doesn’t spell out exactly what they weren’t doing, but we can deduct that what they were doing was not enough to a) earn their salvation, b) make them authentic Christ followers, and c) put them in God’s will.

In essence these people thought they were doing what God wanted them to do, but, somehow, they were not obeying Him.

Given that their external actions looked good, perhaps the problem of their disobedience was internal: their hearts weren’t in their actions. They were doing these “good things” for the wrong reasons, the primary of which was to earn a spot in heaven.

Earning our salvation is not God’s will. I know this because it can’t be done. There is no one righteous, not one (Romans 3:10). Jesus rejected these people because they didn’t have faith in Him to save them. They were trying to do it themselves.

If that’s not you, that’s great. If you know you are saved not because you do anything right (let alone everything) but because you believe sinless Jesus died on the cross for your sins, taking the punishment you deserve, giving you the reward He deserved, and the Father agreed to not hold you eternally accountable for your sins because you believe these things, that’s wonderful.

But don’t miss that verse 21 still has a strong word for us who have our salvation theology ducks in a row.

Jesus says of us kind of people, us “true disciples”, that we do the will of the Father.

Obedience – ACTING according to His will as it is laid out in scripture – is the sign of true, saving faith. Obedience doesn’t earn salvation, but it is the mark of the one who has been saved. Obedience is the proof in the pudding, if you will.

“Belief” that is not followed by obedience was never belief in the first place. This is true in all areas of our lives: we only do that which we believe.

For instance, I can say I believe eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly is best for my body. But I don’t do anything to act in accordance with that idea. In fact, I do the opposite. I eat junk and sit 15 of the 16 hours I am awake every single day.

Why? Because I am not truly convinced I ought to do otherwise. My twisted logic, my actual belief, is that making the food and exercise choices I make is somehow better than making the choices I don’t make. Yes, I will intellectually agree that I believe my body would be better off if I made healthy choices. But when the rubber meets the road and I have to make decisions, my “belief” is betrayed by my opposite actions. My true belief, whether I am conscious of it or not, is that unhealthy choices are better in some way than healthy choices.

We always act in accordance with our actual beliefs.

If you want to know what a man believes about anything, then, including God, watch what he does. If he runs in the opposite direction of the things espoused in scripture, no matter what he tells you or himself (we are super good at fooling ourselves), he is not a Christ-follower. If he does his best to pursue what God tells him to do in scripture, he is a Christ-follower.

Action is evidence of belief, for better or for worse.

What do your actions say about what you truly believe?

(Side note: you might argue that if we looked at the actions of the “false disciples”, we would say they are believers, doing things Jesus commanded His disciples to do. But if you observe them just a little while longer, you hear them appeal to Jesus that they should be received by Him because of their actions – not on account of their faith – a blatant violation of scripture. Their true beliefs come out in their actions – they are doing good things to earn salvation – and then verbally when they are informed their actions aren’t going to save them.)

Spiritual Legacy: God Provides (Again), Edition How He Got Me a Job

I’ve been seriously looking for a job since March, 2014 (unseriously for even longer…) If you’ve looked for a job recently, you know how fun it is.

My journey went something like this:

  • March, 2014: had small crisis that was more than likely going to require a lot of money to resolve. Decided I needed to get a job to remedy the situation. Scoured job search engines for approximately 2,039 hours, only to discover 93% of the links were broken, out dated, or bait and switches. The other 7% appeared legit but didn’t list locations or pay information. In order to become privy to the name of the company, I had to register, at which time they a) signed me up for 42 email lists that didn’t pertain whatsoever to my search criteria I had meticulously entered and b) gave me the name of the company and a way to submit an application which I would never hear back about ever from any of these companies.
  • April, 2014: reached the end of the internet. THE END. Still no job, although, several applications were sent, and, I’m sure, are still sitting in some dummy email account no human will ever check. God remedied our small crisis Himself in glorious fashion. Decided it would still be wise for me to get a job in case the crisis emerged again. Told people I was looking for a job in case anyone had a hook up. They did not.
  • May, 2014: felt discouraged.
  • June, 2014: quit looking for a job.
  • July, 2014-October, 2014: ate ice cream in large quantities.
  • November, 2014: enrolled in seminary because it’s more fun to SPEND money than to earn it.
  • December, 2014: remembered the reason for the season.
  • January, 2015: began aforementioned seminary degree.
  • February, 2015: remembered I was supposed to be looking for a job. Repeated the process from March, 2014.
  • March, 2015: felt discouraged. Told more people I was looking for a job in case anyone had a hook up. They all thought, “Seriously? It’s been like a year since you started looking. Frankly, we’re tired of hearing about it.” Ok, no one said that because my friends are too amazing, but I’m sure they thought it. I was tired of hearing about it…
  • April, 2015: began to feel more in need of a job than ever due to our perceived need to and leading from God to move out of our neighborhood. Repeated the process from March, 2014.
  • May, 2015: tired of making negative zero headway job hunting, I quit again and decided homelessness wouldn’t be so bad. Especially in Florida. Looked for beachfront RV resorts to accommodate our new lifestyle.
  • Late May, 2015: decided to trust God was hand-crafting a job for me and He would bring it when He was good and ready.
  • June 1st-ish, 2015: my mother-in-law saw a small need for help where she works and talked to her boss about it. He saw a much larger need and decided now was the time to create a new position. She suggested he interview me.
  • June 3rd, 2015: had the interview. Liked the employer, felt capable of meeting his needs, and was pleasantly surprised the job was going to meet ALL of my 34 needs in a job (more on that later) as well as 5 of my nit-picky preferences.
  • June 8th, 2015: was offered the position.
  • June 10th, 2015: started my job.

I tell you all that to say this: 1) job hunting on the internet is for the birds, and 2) God knows our needs and will meet them when He sees fit to meet them, whether you hit your head against the wall fruitlessly googling “ANY JOB THAT PAYS MONEY. ANY JOB AT ALL,” or not.

(To be fair, my husband found his current job, which is a perfect fit for him, on Craigslist. Like, the first time he entered a search term. It’s a super annoying story.)

Not only will God meet our needs when the timing is best to do so, He will do so in ways that far surpass what we’d “settle for” if job search engines really worked.

Listen to this ridiculous list of non-negotiables I had (as a result of the goals we have for our own family. It’s perfectly wonderful if you don’t have the same goals for your family. No judgment here. Don’t send me emails.):

  • 20 hours/wk. No more, no less. (I need two days each week to continue seminary, so I can only work 3.)
  • Work day over by 2:30p at least two of the three days I work. (I would work anywhere as long as I did not have to put my kids in aftercare. It’s important to me to pick them up from school and have the late afternoons with them the majority of the time.)
  • Flexibility to shift days I work around so I can be free to go on field trips and attend programs and parties and other tomfoolery at my kids’ school. (Again, I would work anywhere that would allow me to do this because my kids will only want me to come to school events for so long…)
  • At least $__/hr. (We knew what I had to make, minimum, in order for us to feel comfortable moving.)
  • 30 minute or less commute. (In the Memphis area, this is totally reasonable. Add in the fact that when my kids are out of school I have to drive them 25 minutes to the baby sitter before I can even start making my way to my office, this really translates to an hour commute, each way.)

Not only could I not find a job without these specifications, finding one with them seemed impossible. But I had to stick to my guns. While I was busy running into dead ends on the internet, it turns out God was doing what He’s always doing: sitting quietly in the background, arranging the puzzle pieces of the world, including my life, one at a time. And in the case of my job, it seems He was making a more beautiful picture than I could’ve guessed.

Not only was every single non-negotiable met or exceeded, God threw in very personal “extras” just to make me happy because He loves me.

  • I’m working for a ministry. (I had basically given up the idea of getting paid to do what I love – teach the Bible. And while I am not doing that directly in this job, the things I am doing enable others to disciple and evangelize more people all over the world, and I am excited to contribute in a supporting role.)
  • I’m doing work that actually interests me. (I am assisting this ministry in web development and internet marketing, among other things. I have heavily dabbled in these areas since 2008, sometimes for pay, but mostly for fun. The dabbling has led to a fairly proficient knowledge of some of these things, and now I get to use those skills for work. I’ll also get to learn new skills that excite the computer nerd in me. There has also been talk of allowing me to write.)
  • I get to work with several people I already know and love.
  • My primary office is housed in a gorgeous retreat center that’s a relaxing environment to work in.
  • Because I don’t work with clients directly most of the time, JEANS!
  • The coffee is not awful. In fact, it is palatable. (Who am I kidding, this should have been on the non-negotiable list…)

If any of you are still reading, I’ll end with this: see? See how God knows and cares and works everything for our good (Romans 8:28)? See how God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20)? Sometimes we need to hear stories like mine to inspire us to really believe those scriptures when life gets hard and those scriptures don’t necessarily feel true.

He loves you. He’s for you. He’s got you.

Cheap Grace

I started reading a Bonhoeffer book last week. He wrote it in the 1930’s, but it reads as if he wrote it yesterday.

Is the price that we are paying today with the collapse of organized churches anything else but an inevitable consequence of grace acquired too cheaply? We gave away preaching and sacraments cheaply; we performed baptisms and confirmations; we absolved an entire people, unquestioned and unconditionally; out of human love we handed over what was holy to the scornful and unbelievers. We poured out rivers of grace without end, but the call to rigorously follow Christ was seldom heard.

Bonhoeffer coined the term “cheap grace”. When we share with others that Jesus died on the cross for them and “all they have to do” to get to heaven is accept that, we are setting them up for the biggest fall of their lives (perhaps of their eternities as well). We tell people they just need to check that belief box, and then they can go about their way, living however they want to because all is covered by grace.

But that’s not the message of the Bible.

Belief in Jesus without repentance (defined as being truly contrite and resolving to do the opposite of the wrong you have been doing through the power of the Holy Spirit) is not true recognition of the depth of one’s sinfulness, of the holiness God requires of us, and of one’s need for Christ’s substitutionary death.

When we limit our sharing about Jesus with others – whether individually or from the pulpit – to “cheap grace”, we are only telling one half of the story. Yes, Jesus died to save us, and, yes, there is not one “good work” we can or need to do in order to be saved. But the grace God offers us through the killing of His Son is not cheap at all. As Bonhoeffer says, it is costly grace.

God’s extension of grace to us cost Him His Son. Go back and watch Jesus be beaten to a pulp and crucified in The Passion of the Christ. Not easy to watch for us; how much harder for Jesus’ Dad?

And the Christianity to which Jesus calls us is not cheap either. Go back and read Jesus’ commands to the disciples to give up everything and follow Him (Matthew 4:18-22); to hate their families in comparison to how much they loved Him (Luke 14:26); to die to themselves (Luke 9:23-24). If they wanted to be saved by grace, not having to do anything to earn salvation except believe the Gospel (Ephesians 2:8-9), the disciples would have to do it on Jesus’ terms. And His terms were/are, “accept Me as your Lord and Savior”.

When we offer people cheap grace, we erase “Lord” from Jesus’ terms. We shout Savior, but we don’t even whisper Lord. And that’s not biblical. People think they are becoming Christians because that go-to-Heaven-without-doing-anything deal sounds pretty good to them. But they aren’t surrendering any part of their lives, much less all of their lives to Jesus. They aren’t making Him their Boss. Cheap grace.

So our churches fill up with people who are fat on cheap grace and have never even heard of costly grace, if they attend church at all. The Christians who shared the gospel with them are to blame. And the pastors and Bible teachers they sit under are to blame. Our congregations swell with people who don’t live like Christians because they haven’t been taught the full picture of what it means to follow Christ. They prayed a prayer for cheap grace and think that’ll do. They go to church because it makes them feel good and/or just in case there was some fine print on that cheap grace that says they really DO need to attend church in order to get into Heaven. But after awhile, they don’t really see the point of attending church… they are confident they have their Get Out of Hell Free card, and sleeping in on Sunday mornings or going to brunch early to beat the church crowds is much more appealing. They stop attending altogether, only to be replaced by other people who have bought cheap grace. And on and on the cycle goes.

[Note: many people who accept cheap grace sincerely understand their need for a Savior and believe that Christ is the only Savior who will do. If this is the case, hear me: I believe they are just as saved as people who understand grace is costly. The difference that burdens me is not necessarily their eternal destinies being different. What burdens me is that when people stop at cheap grace and never come to understand costly grace – when they never move beyond belief in Christ to actually following Christ – THEY MISS OUT! They miss out on having a relationship with God that is more intimate than any relationship they have with a human. They miss out on being set free from sin patterns that hurt them and their loved ones. They miss out on being a part of the miraculous, powerful things the Lord is doing all around them. Cheap grace robs them of the life God has for them now.]

As I continued to reflect on what I was reading in the Bonhoeffer book, the Spirit politely insisted I take a look at myself.

I began to wonder if I am guilty of preaching cheap grace to people. I tell people about Christ every week. I share the Gospel. But have I shared cheap grace to the neglect of costly grace? Do I make it a point to emphasize to seekers that their decision to accept Christ as Savior must also include accepting Him as Lord? Boss? Master? I also teach Christians the Bible every week. But have I really been teaching believers cheap grace to the exclusion of costly grace? Am I too quick to offer grace when believers really ought to be challenged to follow after Jesus more completely?

Last week I read this:

Costly Grace

What is our Christianity costing us, really? If we are not committed to doing whatever He wants however He wants whenever He wants no matter what, we need to seriously consider whether we’ve been sold cheap grace. If our being a Christian isn’t costing us anything – everything – we don’t understand what being a Christian really is. The good news is Jesus wants to lovingly teach us.

Are you willing to be taught? 

How to Be Strong

The other day I was reading in 2 Timothy, and a beautifully unique phrase jumped out at me. Paul says to Timothy, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus,” (2 Timothy 2:1).

I know I’ve read this book of the Bible several times, but this verse seemed brand new to me… I must not have noticed it before. (And that’s why/how Bible study never gets old.)

I wondered, what does it mean to be “strong in the grace that is in Christ”?

I liked the sound of it… but what does it mean?

I backed up a paragraph in the text to see what was going on right before Paul wrote this. He was singing the praises of a man named Onesiphorus because he was the only one in Asia who hadn’t deserted Paul. Instead, this guy helped Paul, and Paul was grateful.

Paul follows that report with our verse, “You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.” The word “then” suggests our verse is connected with Onesiphorus’ story. What’s the correlation?

Perhaps Paul wants Timothy to consider Onesiphorus as a model for what it means to be strong in the grace that is in Christ. If that’s the case, Onesiphorus shows that strength by “refreshing” Paul (serving him in love), by not being ashamed of Paul’s being in prison (being willing to love Paul even in the face of social stigma and possible persecution), and by helping Paul in “many ways” in Ephesus (2 Timothy 1:15-18).

Onesiphorus sounds like Superstar Christian of the Year. When everyone else refused to help Paul any longer, Onesiphorus went above and beyond to help Paul. It’s almost as if Onesiphorus had supernatural strength…

I began to wonder how other translations of our verse read. A couple caught my eye.

The NLT reads, “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus.”

The ESV reads, “You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus.”

Unlike the NIV (1984) translation I read initially, both of these translations more clearly communicate the intended meaning of the verse: believers are to be strengthened or made strong by Jesus’ grace given to them. We should derive our strength for the hard road that is living a fruitful Christian life from the grace of Jesus.

Another verse in 2 Timothy speaks to this idea, “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control,” (2 Timothy 1:7). Our spirit of power literally comes from God. Like Onesiphorus, we are to lean on God’s grace to strengthen us for the tasks He has for us.

In another Pauline letter, we find a similar verse, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might,” (Ephesians 6:10). We don’t have to conjure up our own strength, and we aren’t commanded to be strong in our own power. Our strength for whatever we do must come from God or we aren’t going to be able to do it for long. 

And as our original verse suggests, the strength we get from the Lord is given to us by grace alone. We aren’t deserving of it. We can’t manipulate it out of Him. It is only by the grace of Jesus that the Lord is willing to strengthen us.

In whatever God is calling you, my friend, to do today, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 

Turning Over Tables

One of the stories in the gospels that intrigues me is when Jesus got so ticked off He started turning over tables like a mad man.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” (John 2:13-16)

I guess I’m drawn to this part of Jesus because I can identify with feeling angry. I get angry every day. Anger is a commonplace human emotion, and to read that Jesus experienced this emotion, too, makes me feel like He gets me. He understands. He wasn’t always cool, calm, and collected.

What’s peculiar to Jesus, though, is that while He was angry, He didn’t sin. He couldn’t sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). Even when He looked totally out of control, He wasn’t sinning.

Of course, that’s not usually the case with us. When we get angry, we often sin. Sometimes our anger prompts us to use speech that tears down others (Ephesians 4:29), to retaliate against the person who hurt us (Matthew 5:38-42), or to harbor bitterness and resentment (read: unforgiveness) (Ephesians 4:31).

As Jesus illustrates, it’s not the anger that is sin. As we demonstrate, it’s the feelings and behaviors that flow out of anger that can be sinful (Ephesians 4:26).

Truth be told, I struggle with knowing how my outbursts are any different/worse than Jesus’ tantrum in the temple courts. And on the outside, they may look very similar. But inside – in my heart – things might not be so similar.

Everything Jesus did was motivated by love for His Father and love for people. Everything. Even scattering animals and flipping over merchant tables (John 14:31, 15:9).

Jesus wasn’t angry because He wasn’t getting attention or because things weren’t going His way or because somebody hurt His feelings. Jesus’ anger wasn’t fueled by self-focus at all.

Jesus was angry because God the Father was being disrespected. Jesus loved the Father too much to idly sit by and allow others to disrespect Him.

At the same time, Jesus was angry that the money changers weren’t making God-honoring decisions for themselves. Jesus loved every person in the temple courts. He loved them too much to idly sit by and allow them to disrespect God because He knew that wasn’t in their best interest; Jesus wanted better for those money changers.

When we find ourselves turning over tables, or at least wanting to, we need to ask ourselves why? Why are we angry? Are we angry for self-centered reasons or for God and others-centered reasons? Is love the motivation of our violent display of emotions?  If not, we should probably hold off on pulling a Jesus-in-the-temple-courts.

What to do When People Hurt You

Sometimes people hurt us.

Insightful, no?

Accidents happen. Feelings get hurt. Egos get bruised. People get overlooked. And, every once in awhile, people may purposefully take a stab at our hearts out of anger or bitterness.

Most of the time this kind of thing happens in isolated incidents. Especially the hurting that is inadvertent. We swallow it, and move on. Or we talk about it, resolve it, and move on.

But what do we do with the relationships in which we know the other person is going to hurt us before they actually do so? Sometimes people aren’t safe or mature or good at loving other people, and, if we had to guess, they are going to hurt us sooner than later.

There are a lot of clues we may be dealing with this sort of person…

Maybe they have a track record of hurting us, and we’ve just come to expect that from them. Maybe we’ve observed them hurting others before, and we figure it’s only a matter of time before they hurt us too.

Or maybe the person isn’t intrinsically hurtful, it’s just that we’ve been around the block enough times to realize that loving others is risky. The more emotionally vulnerable we are with someone, the more deeply they can hurt us.

So what do we do?

The natural tendency is to allow very few people into the depths of our hearts. Keep them on the surface so if they do something insensitive or flat out stupid, it won’t hurt very badly. And if the handful of people we let in ever do hurt us, we quickly learn to construct a wall to keep them out for good so they can’t ever hurt us again.

In other words, we protect ourselves.

Except the only problem is that’s not how Jesus did relationships. 

Jesus had a friend named Peter who swore his faithfulness to Jesus up and down (Luke 22:33). As good as Pete’s intentions were, Jesus knew better, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me,” (Luke 22:34).

Jesus knew Peter was going to hurt Him. They had been great friends, doing life together daily for the better part of three years. I can imagine the pain in Jesus’ heart – the heaviness – at the thought that Peter was going to deny even knowing Him. How hurtful…

Sure enough, after Jesus was arrested, Peter was questioned about his relationship to Jesus, and Peter denied knowing Him (Luke 22:56-60). “Just as [Peter] was speaking, the rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter,” (Luke 22:60-61).

I don’t think Jesus was shooting Peter an “I told you so” look. That’s not in our Lord’s character. Rather, I can imagine the look was mainly one of great sorrow and hurt. Jesus had known it was coming, but it didn’t hurt any less.

All that to say, when Jesus was in a relationship with someone He knew was going to hurt Him, He didn’t back away. He didn’t build a wall. He didn’t self-protect.

He let the hurt happen. 

And then He continued to love Peter well and do what was in Peter’s best interest by serving him and sacrificing for him – even unto death.

It was not fun. It was not easy. Peter hurt Jesus deeply. But Jesus chose to respond in love.

And we are called to do no less.

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God,” (Ephesians 5:1-2). 

Us Versus Them

In any kind of conflict, we humans instinctively feel defensive. Whether it’s a tiff with a spouse, a disagreement with a friend, or an argument with a boss, we immediately adopt an “us versus them” mentality. It’s just how we’re wired.

Which would be fine if that were how God is wired too. But it’s not.

In that passage we all hate, Jesus said we’re to forgive other believers who hurt us 70 times 7 times, by which He was implying as many times as it takes (Matthew 18:21-22). Why? Because Jesus has forgiven us a million times over – there is nothing He hasn’t forgiven us for – and He wants us to offer the same grace to others (Colossians 3:13).

And He doesn’t want us to just forgive them and part ways. He wants us to forgive them and continue in relationship with them (so far as it depends on us – Romans 12:18). (The obvious exception – when abuse is involved.) I know this because that’s what He does with us. And the longer we spend on this earth, the more like Him we should become (Romans 8:29).

He also tells us Christians to love one another as He has loved us… which begs the question – how has He loved us (John 13:34)? Unconditionally. He literally died for us, and He calls us to figuratively give up our lives for one another. 

In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul pens a whopper of a passage. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Completely humble?

Every effort?

But what if I’m tired of trying? What if the other party doesn’t care? Worse, what if the other party continues to hurt me or show no regard for my feelings?

How long do I have to bear with them? Surely there is a statute of limitations… As much as my humanity would love to say there is, I don’t see one in scripture… Jesus’ “bearing with me” and all my crap doesn’t have a time limit. And neither should our bearing with one another.

But wouldn’t it be more “peaceful” for two people in seemingly irresolvable conflict to part ways? Let’s call that what it really is – to divide. Shouldn’t two believers who can’t work things out split up in order to “keep the peace”? After all, “keeping the peace” is biblical… (Romans 12:18)

As much I as I wish it did, that just doesn’t seem congruent with “keeping the unity”… Logically, how can that which is divided also be unified, simultaneously? By definition, it can’t.

Might I propose that between two believers, there ought not be such a thing as “irreconcilable differences”? By the power of the Spirit, at least one of the parties ought to be able to extend grace, humility, love, and mercy… as many times as it takes… and since we can only be responsible for our own actions in any given conflict, our choosing to be the party that makes every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit is all that’s in our control. We can choose to obey scripture, despite our feelings, and despite the other person’s choices.

But if the other person doesn’t seem to care at all about “keeping the unity”, that can make for a pretty crummy situation.

So what then? Are we to just remain in a bunch of miserable relationships – us versus the ridiculous them?

I don’t think so.

After his tall order of how we ought to behave, Paul says, “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and in all and through all,” Ephesians 4:4-6.

You see, there is no “us” or “them”. At least there shouldn’t be. Not in the body of believers. We are one.

The people we disagree with – we’re one with them.

The people who hurt our feelings – we’re one with them too.

The believers who outright hurt us time and time again – one.

We must make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. The Church depends on it. The Gospel depends on it. We have to forsake the “us versus them” mentality that we reflexively assume when someone crosses us.

We believers are one, whether we feel like it or not. We should be rooting for one another to succeed, spurring each other on to love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, and encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Lord, by Your power, may everything we do and say contribute to the unity of Your Body, the Church. We are one. May we act like it.