Ephesians 4:2 - Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
"I can hardly tolerate that man," Jerry said through gritted teeth. He was referring to one of the deacons who was always trying to suggest a better way to do things. Most of the time his ideas were really just strongly phrased opinions that did not benefit the body of Christ as a whole. "The church would be a great place to be if it weren't for all the people and their opinions."
"You don't really mean that, do you, Will," asked the preacher?
Will thought for a moment and then he said, "I believe I do, preacher. The Bible says I have to love them but it doesn't say I have to like them!"
"Not true," said the preacher as he put his hand gently on Will's shoulder. "Over and over again, the scriptures tell us to love each other, pray for each other, and try to live a peace together." The preacher went on to share with Will about how he can listen and learn to tolerate others. He also told Will some thoughts on how he could turn the wagon around on people like Jerry so that they were all on the same page.
Jesus prayed for his disciples that they should be united. "I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one-- I in them and you in me--so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." Jesus prayed for the same type of bond to be in his followers that He has with God.
This lesson has great implications for the fellowship of believers. We are so often pointing fingers and comparing our relationship with other Christians. We can be so intolerant of each other and other people's opinions. We make judgements and label people who we are supposed to be fellow citizens and members of the same family in God. We need to get back to the basis of our bond in Christ, the love of God, and the true meaning of fellowship.
This lesson also has great implications for those who are in a weight loss group. It is easy to point fingers and make accusations about others when you see them succeeding and you have stalled. Instead of celebrating together and sharing our secrets and advise we snub them. Let me tell you that when you find yourself in this position you had better either get straight or give up (And I rarely tell anyone to give up) because you are no use to anyone else or yourself.
Please don't get me wrong. I am not being critical here. I am just saying that we need to find our center in Jesus. No church is perfect. In fact, I have found that every congregation has their politics, petty differences of opinion, and lotsa drama! But Christ brought us together to accomplish great things and if our focus is on his kingdom we can do just that!
Dear God, Thank you for bringing us together in this fellowship of love. When I am running thin on love and patience please pour out on me a generous portion of Spirit so that I may learn to be tolerant, loving, and gently correct and admonish those who need it. Correct me, Lord, when I am wrong too. I want to accomplish great things in your kingdom with my brothers and sisters in Christ. Help me to have the right attitude. I pray these things in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ, my Savior, Amen.
"The Church is the new creation, it is life and joy, it is the sacramental fellowship in which we share the ultimate purpose of God, made real for us now in our hearing the Word and sharing the Sacrament."
"There is nothing in this world that can compare with the Christian fellowship; nothing that can satisfy but Christ."
-John D. Rockefeller