This morning, I have a brief message about “friendly fire” in the Church. I use a capital C because I am referring to anyone who loves God, without regard to denomination or flavor of faith. If you claim to believe in God, this message pertains to you and yours; for those outside that belief, you’re welcome to read along as well, because I believe you see the workings and actions of professing Christians, perhaps even better than we do ourselves.
I have no photograph to go along with this post, and I will keep it brief. It is a topic on my heart this morning, and I am going to write from the cuff, so to speak.
It grieves me and, I believe it grieves the heart of God when we – His professing children – take pot-shots at each other. While we all claim to love and follow the same God, none of us are called to exactly the same mission. While one may be directed to Africa, another may head to the slums of LA, and another be called to a life of faithful steadiness at home in raising up the next generation. Some go to the poor, and some rub elbows with the wealthy. Some make national television and spend large portions of time in the spotlight, and some are never known outside their own small circles. Some may worship loudly and with extravagance, while others feel closer to God in solitude and quiet. Some branches of our faith call for strict guidelines, rules, and accountability; others show a much looser, less prohibitive style, allowing individuals to be “led by the Spirit” and accountable primarily to God.
In all our differences, we have one major goal in common: that we love God and love our neighbor. This is the underlying core of the Bible in a nutshell. Details abound, and entire lifetimes have been spent in attempting to describe and outline how that message is best acted out.
My request this morning is this: I ask for grace among those of us who claim to be following God. When one seems to be operating differently than another, let grace be our first reaction. Let individual, unique marching orders and callings and prompting of the Spirit be a viable option. Instead of jumping to shout “New Age!” or “False doctrine!” or “Un-Scriptural!” or any of the other accusations we fling at each other, let us first remind ourselves that we all answer to God. That he works and moves in mysterious ways, that he uses all kinds, in all walks, and we ourselves will someday answer for our own choices and behaviors, not those of anyone else. Let him be God, and let him be the judge of his own servants.
In one instance, Jesus was hanging out with his followers, and the guys started to tell him about a man they had seen who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus. They openly admitted to Jesus that they tried to stop him, perhaps thinking Jesus would give them a pat on the shoulder and a commendation, “Good job, guys. Can’t let just anyone spread the Gospel – who knows what they’ll say!”
No, Jesus’ response was quite different from what they expected. “Do not stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. For the one who is not against us is for us.”
Huh. So that means I don’t have to ferret out the details and dig into the underlying motivation and determine without a doubt that this person is truly a follower and has his proper credentials?
The one who is not against us is for us.
Makes me pause a bit. And then lets me breathe so much more freely.
Now for the critics out there, I’m obviously not encouraging an “anything goes”, blase attitude about presenting Jesus. I believe it matters deeply how he is presented and what we believe about him. That being said, I believe just as deeply that we do far more damage when we quality-control the message of our fellow believers, than they do in telling that message.
In Jesus’ own words, “Don’t stop him.” Let them do what work they feel called to do. They may reach a different group of people than you or I will ever reach. They may change different lives, go different places, and do different things. And I thank God for it; that he is in charge, that he alone will decide, and that I am not the only one responsible for getting the word out about him.
Love God. Love your neighbor. Let God sort it out in the end.