Jump Start # 2328
Ephesians 5:21 “”and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.”
Our verse seems so simple today, but it’s not. In modern times we’d say, “get along with one another.” However, that doesn’t always work in the house, does it? Kids fuss with one another. That certainly doesn’t work in politics. And, often that doesn’t work among brethren.
Back in Amos 3, we find the statement, “Can two walk together unless they are in agreement?” Imagine, taking a walk in the evening with someone. You want to go left and head down that street and they want to go right and head the other way. You can stand and make your point for why the direction you want to go is better, as they do the same, or, you can just get mad and go back into the house, or you can walk alone, or, one of you can go along with the other because walking together is what you really wanted to do in the first place.
The most asked question on Sunday is “Where do you want to go to eat?” And, what typically follows is, “I don’t know” or, “I don’t care.” And, when a suggestion is made, you find out that they do care, because that’s one place that they don’t want to go.
Getting along. It seems so simple, but it’s really not. The past few days I have been diving deeply into a story that took place more than 130 years ago. Some brethren wanted to do some things that others were uncomfortable with. Heels were dug in. One side was considered progressive. The other, extremists. Both backed their positions with Scriptures, logic and at the time, powerful names and brotherhood papers. There was an impasse, a real standoff. Both sides pointed fingers at the other side and accused them of being wrong. Sadly, this wasn’t an uproar just in one congregation. There was a shift in thinking trickling through the brotherhood. Things were lining up for a civil war within the whole church. So, to put a stake in the ground and to end all of this, a group met in the prairies of Illinois at a small congregation that was being torn apart with these troubles. A large crowd gathered. Speeches were made. And, then a signed declaration was presented. Those that no longer accepted the way things had been were pushed out. A formal separation was declared. In a marriage, we’d call this the divorce papers. But among brethren, it meant that not only would fellowship be excluded, the one side would no longer recognize the other as brethren. So, in this little farming community, folks that sat on the front porches and enjoyed each other’s company, now would view each other as rival enemies. It didn’t end there. A lawsuit was filed over which side would get to keep the church property. The case went to the state supreme court. This became the first of many more lawsuits all over the country. Now, all these years later, what began at one central starting point, has turned into three or four major factions that have nothing to do with each other, nor any concept or understanding how their forefathers once all worshipped together.
Getting along. What do you do with those you disagree with? The first inclination is to separate. I will surround myself with only those who are like me. But after a while, you will find disagreements there. Even within the family, there are disagreements. It’s like the family who didn’t agree with the church, so they separated and started meeting in their house. After a while, mom and dad disagreed with the kids. The kids worshipped in the front room and mom and dad in the bedroom. Later on, mom and dad disagreed. The kids were in the front room, mom was in the bedroom, and dad was alone in the bathroom.
Some separations are not necessary. Some are a matter of opinions and we always think our own opinion is better than anything else. We wrote recently about Romans 14, and the disagreements over whether or not to eat meats sacrificed to idols. Some could. Some couldn’t. Fingers were pointed at each other and tensions were rising. The instruction from the Holy Spirit was to accept one another and stop judging each other. A person could go to Heaven eating meats and a person could go to Heaven who didn’t eat meats.
I love the congregation where I worship. I believe it’s one of the best in the world. However, there are times and there are things that bug me. I hear what some say and I think, “You shouldn’t say that.” But I expect there are things that I do that bugs others. And, since our names are not on the sign, but the Lord’s we are here to honor Christ. When God’s children cannot get along, we are not honoring Christ.
Our verse today reminds us to be subject to one another. It’s like taking that walk together. Can I go the direction that you want to go? If it really doesn’t matter, then don’t let it matter. Be subject to one another means to bend our will toward the other. Don’t make every disagreement a life or death situation, because they are not all that way. Love, as defined in 1 Corinthians 13, doesn’t keep track of wrongs. Love forgives. So, stop with the “You always get your way.” How do you know that unless you’ve been keeping track and keeping score. Don’t do that.
But there comes some things that crosses the line of what I feel is right and wrong. What’s done in worship is something that involves all of us. To worship together, we must do things together. Now, when something is done that I feel isn’t right with Scriptures, then my heart and my conscience is bothered. It is at the moment that some are ready to separate and end our fellowship with one another. It may come to that, but not first. The first thing is a private discussion. Let it be known how you feel. Sometimes I do things without thinking that bothers my wife. I don’t mean to, I just do. For instance, I tend to toss an empty cup into the trash can. She will say, “Don’t do that.” Now, she has her reasons. Often when the trash is collected, those empty cups stay at the bottom of the trash can. She would rather I put the empty cup into a bag to assure that it’s emptied into the trash truck. For convenience, it’s easier to take the cup from the car and put it in the trash can. But for the sake of love, because it means something to her and she doesn’t want to dig through the bottom of the trash can and pull those cups out, I will go along with her. Is she right? Am I right? I don’t really stay up at night thinking about it. I really don’t care. She does. So, I have adjusted my ways for her. That’s our verse today. Get along. Do what you can to be the same.
I really think if love for one another and trying to please each other was the main goal then we wouldn’t have to separate from each other as much as we have in the past. Talk things out. Find a way to work through things. In the end, separation may still have to happen if some are forced to do things that they feel are wrong. We must all stand upon what we feel is right with God’s word.
The spirit of separation and dividing with those you disagree with is counter to the Lord’s prayer for unity in John 17. I’m right and you are wrong sounds boastful until you are in those situations. And in the heat of battle, some forget that they are followers of Jesus. Name calling, dishonesty, wicked maneuvering has no place among brethren. But history shows otherwise. Be careful with pulling out your six shooter and declaring, “I disagree with you. You are wrong.” First, make sure you are right. Don’t stand upon what you have always done. Look in the Scriptures. You might be surprised. Second, before firing shots at each other, and building fences that separate, see if there is a way to work things out. Be humble. Be kind. Be respectful. Try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Open Scriptures. Study together. If it is impossible without someone doing what they feel is a violation of Scripture, then it may be time to separate. That should only happen after many prayers, tears and longing to be reconciled. Don’t call the lawyers. Don’t make things worse than what they are.
In the end, you have to get to Heaven. But if you find yourself worshipping in the bathroom all by yourself, maybe you best look in the mirror and check your spirit and your attitude. Some would rather divide than be subject to each other. And, looking back at history only gives us part of the story. It’s easy to declare what I would do had I been there. So easy that seems. Yet, with our issues and our problems today we can be so blind.
Solomon said in Ecclesiastes 3, “there is a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.” Knowing when those times are is the key. Getting the times wrong may mean we embrace when we shouldn’t and we may refrain from embracing when we ought to be together.
There is a time…figure out what that time is.