Sometimes, I don't want to be called a Christian.
Yep. You read that correctly.
But the reason I don't want to be called a Christian is not because I don't want to be associated with Christ. As a matter of fact, it's the exact opposite: I DO want to be associated with Christ.
Unfortunately, Christians have done a great job of turning people away from Christ. And by Christians I mean all of us who claim that title. Me included.
I work for a ministry and the other day I was surprised by a phone call I received. We'll keep the real names anonymous, but it went a little something like this:
Me: Hi, Fred. How can I help you?
Fred: Hey, I was just wondering about the softball trip that you guys have coming up to the Dominican Republic. I was asked to help recruit for it but I wanted to see if Sarah was going. You know the lady from that other ministry.
Me: Um, let me check. *Checks to see if Sarah or anyone from her ministry is signed up* Nope, doesn't look like I have any of them signed up yet.
Fred: Ok, good. I just wanted to be sure. I don't want to go or recruit anyone to go if she or anyone from her ministry is going.
Me: *Pauses for a moment to let it process in my mind what he just said.* Ok, so if she is going, you're not going. But if she's not going, you are going? I just want to make sure I have that right.
Fred: Well, um, yeah, I mean, I just have worked with her before and I just, well, Bill knows why. He understands where I'm coming from. I just, I know what they are like and well.... I'll just talk to Bill about it.
Me: Hm. Oh. Okay.
Yeah. That happened. Someone does not want to go on a mission trip to show Christ's love if someone else is going. And I happen to know that this "someone else" is a lady who runs a really phenomenal ministry to reach softball girls for Christ. She's not perfect, but neither is Fred.
We are told in Romans that we are one body in Christ.
"For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." Romans 12.4-5
So how are we supposed to function as one unit if we can't get along?
What if our legs didn't want to go somewhere because they weren't especially fond of how our hands dressed us? Or what if our forearms refused to move because all the elbow ever does is bump into things?
That seems ridiculous, but that's exactly how we act as Christians sometimes. We don't like how someone else does ministry so we criticize [behind their backs of course]. We don't agree with the standards of a particular group of Christians, so we avoid them all together.
Stupid other Christians.
Obviously this is a problem that goes back to the very first Christians, because even Paul had to give a reminder to the Ephesians:
"I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." Ephesians 4.1-3
Think of all that the human body accomplishes when it works together: walking, talking, running, laughing, digesting, smelling, thinking, listening, touching, typing, seeing, holding, crying, writing, reading, healing, sitting, breathing, and the list goes on and on.
The amount of "teamwork" that goes into the processes that make the body function is remarkable.
It's no coincidence that God gives us the analogy of the church as a body, too. Works the exact same way... if we let it.
I admit, it takes a conscious effort sometimes. It would be great if we could function as effortlessly as our lungs do when it comes to breathing or our heart when it comes to pumping blood. But that's just not the case most of the time.
So what can we do?
Well, I guess the answer is pretty obvious: keep our eyes on Christ. It's when we start looking around us and comparing ourselves with others that the bickering and disunity ignites in our hearts. We begin to become critical of others and thereby seeing ourselves as somehow worthy of Christ's love. When our eyes are focused on our Savior, though, it's impossible to see the imperfections in those around us because we are keenly aware of our own imperfections before a holy God and we are willing to not only allow His grace to be sufficient for us, but also everyone we come in contact with.
Richard and I are working to memorize the book of James. It's chocked full of how to deal with these very issues. Because even we missionaries struggle with it. I know. You're shocked.
I challenge you to memorize James, too. It's a big undertaking, but oh so very worth it if it means we can become unified as the body of Christ.
That's what the world needs to see in us.
Will you take the challenge?