There is a temptation that exists to look back on the past with rose-colored glasses. In the year 2020, I think that temptation is even stronger.
If you’re like me, that temptation can even extend to the church. However, as we read through Galatians, the rest of the New Testament and take a look at church history, there is only really one conclusion you can make: the church has always had problems.
One of the biggest problems the church has faced from the beginning is disunity. Speaking of the Judiazers, Paul says “They zealously court you, but for no good; yes, they want to exclude you, that you may be zealous for them” (Gal 4:17). In Corinth, people were apparently sectioning themselves off based on what teacher they liked the most (1 Cor 1:11-12).
Is today any different? Is there anything new under the sun? Whether it is false teachers distorting the gospel or immature Christians being needlessly divisive over secondary matters, the church has been plagued by disunity from its earliest days. Perhaps this is why Jesus and the apostles took unity so seriously.
Jesus’s prayer for us in the garden of Gethsemane was that we would be one, that we would have unity with Himself and each other, the same unity that He shared with the Father. Paul wrote the entire epistle of Galatians to protect from the disunity and false gospel of the Judiazers and his first order of business in talking to the Corinthians was in addressing the factions among them. God knows that unity is a struggle for sinful people, so He calls it to us fervently.
There is nothing new under the sun, but 2020 does feel a bit different. The stresses of this year’s apocalypse, have revealed a lot about who we are as a world, nation and church and I think it is just the beginning. Conversations are starting and continuing that will reveal a great diversity of opinions and feelings on a variety of topics. Many of us may grow frustrated and dismayed at our own brothers and sisters at Seven Mile Road. These conversations should still happen. We must resist the urge to devolve into factions. We must be wary of anyone who would create sects within our church.
Peter says it well:
“The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pet 4:7-8).
We must love each other earnestly in the midst of strife and disillusionment. Jesus gave His life for His bride, the church. This messy, disappointing, strife-filled church. He knew it would be this way and still loved us. Will we not also love His church?