“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste,
and a divided household falls.”
~ Luke 11:17 ~
This past week one of our congregants shared with me, through tears, the story of a church now divided against itself. The lines drawn were battle lines, evidenced by the manner in which each side judged and spoke to one another. The battle was not over fundamental, must-have doctrine, but on the topic of vaccines. There were ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’, with both sides insisting it being a test of Christian orthodoxy. Though not a perfect analogy, it reminded me of a crisis faced by Paul in his letter to the Galatians: the question of circumcision.
At the beginning of the pandemic we expressed the hope that our church would come out the other side, whenever that was, stronger. We knew we would face challenges to our understanding of what Christian courage, Christian caution, and Christian compassion look like. We knew the trial would likely last longer than we could anticipate. We knew, especially over time, we would be tempted to “grow weary in doing good”. Just as we focused the ministry of CBC Ilderton, we asked you to focus your hopes in Christ. To the Galatians, Paul exhorted toward freedom: but not freedom in simple constructs of either individual or community freedoms, but true freedom that comes through being in Christ: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. (5:6)” He was not speaking to a “bad” church; they once “were running well (5:7)”, but stumbled as they took their eyes off of ‘first things’ and focused upon secondary. Paul warns of the power of freedom: it can be used as an opportunity for our flesh, or as an opportunity through love to serve one another (see 5:13). What does your freedom in Christ ask of you when you consider a brother or sister who thinks differently than you? Paul went on to say something quite astounding: “the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’.” This is not easy when convictions of conscience collide, but I think it starts when I consider what Christ has done for me: “he loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)” He did not do this when I was easily loveable, but when I was a sinner. If he so loved me, how could I not love? If he also so loved my brother or sister who disagrees with me, how could I not also love them?
We have come so far, and have seen the Lord’s gracious providential care in so many ways; let us all continue to not grow weary in doing good for in due season we will reap!