As always, it is such a joy and privilege to have the opportunity to share with you in this column.
Today I would like to share from the heart briefly concerning our work for Christ, and how we can best serve as witnesses to the Gospel in our post-modern times. A scripture that was part of last Sunday’s lectionary readings provides some very good advice. It comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus 4:1-16. Although these verses are directed to the church itself, I think the ramifications for putting them into practice internally will have a profound impact on the witness of the church externally. Paul stresses the importance of unity, faith, knowledge of God’s Son, and maturity in Christ.
Very early on in church history the reality of division within the community of believers became apparent and the Apostle counters this with a call for unity. We have “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” (CEB), and we are one people in Christ. It was important to Paul that the church presented itself as unified and I believe it is extremely important that we strive to do the same today. The message of salvation through faith in Jesus, God’s extraordinary love for humanity, and God’s desire to reconcile us to himself as God’s children, is a timeless message of utmost importance, one that we all share as Christians and we must proclaim it in unity, with one voice, if we hope to reach our post modern world. Divisions among us and clinging to our particular distinctives only serve to discredit what we say, and for this reason it is no wonder so many people are skeptical of churches today. So we must pray for and strive for greater unity.
Secondly, how we present the message is almost as important as the message itself. Paul exhorts us to “conduct ourselves with all humility, gentleness, and patience. Accept each other with love, and make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together” (CEB). Humility, gentleness, and patience, are definitely things that are in short supply these days in our world. They have been replaced with pridefulness, aggressiveness, and impatience. We can clearly see what those things have done, but we are called to be different. Instead of arrogantly shoving our doctrine onto others, passing judgment on them, and demanding compliance with our values, perhaps we would do well to practice humility, realizing that we are but sinners saved by grace, and that without God’s love and mercy we too would be lost. Perhaps we would better serve the Lord and our neighbor by being gentle, listening to others, and forming real relationships that can become the context into which we can speak the truth with love. God has been patient with us, so we need to be patient with others, giving the Spirit time to do His work and trusting in God’s ways.
I hear folks today lamenting what they feel is the decline of the church in our society. I, however, see an immense opportunity for evangelism. The harvest is plentiful, and this could very well be a time when the message of salvation, presented with humility, gentleness, patience, and with love, could impact our society in a beautiful, transforming way. The truth when spoken in love still sets us free. But then, come to think of it, that’s just how Jesus and his disciples did it 2,000 years ago! Some things will never change!
The writer is the pastor of Spring Creek Christian Church and the Church of Christ in Port Jefferson.