You and I may disagree over politics, religion, the environment, what kind of region has the best pizza, or whether the toilet paper roll should be over or under (I’m an over kind of guy). The one thing I believe we all can agree on is that there is evil in our world. It fills our newspapers, and our social media feeds. We can see it on the streets, in our places of employment, in our schools, and even in our homes. And if we’re honest enough, we can even find evil residing in our hearts.
“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” -(Jeremiah 17:9 NASB)
It’s easy for us to address the issue of evil at the surface. We have justice systems which sentence criminals to be locked up in prisons. We have missile systems which protect us and eliminate threats. We have security systems installed in our houses, and if that isn’t enough, we can obtain permits that allow us to carry a gun. All of these things may provide us with a sense of security, and maybe control, but even if the crime rate goes down in our respective cities, it never goes away completely.
“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” -(Ephesians 6:12 NIV)
The presence of evil in the world can be seen as darkness. Darkness blinds us, preventing us from distinguishing right from wrong, and those that operate in the darkness, do so to not be seen. The devil would prefer you not knowing he exists, and has inspired many pastors and theologians to teach such a lie. While I don’t necessarily believe that demonic spirits, in and of themselves, are as powerful as some movies would want us to believe, they are real, and their greatest power is influence. Our real struggle is with this darkness.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
‘Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.'” -(Ephesians 5:6-14 ESV)
At one point in time there was error in my understanding of Paul’s letters. I regarded his instruction on an individual level, but failed to see how he always wrote with the greater body in mind. As individuals, we are members of Christ body and how we relate to the other members ultimately impacts the effectiveness of the body as a whole. This is why Jesus’ new commandment was for us to love one another (John 13:34-35), and why Paul and the other writers of the New Testament epistles focused quite a bit on personal conduct among individuals within the Church. Christianity is not a ‘Lone Ranger’ faith, we need each other, this is why it is important to be involved in a church in your community, not just attending Sunday services, but being actively involved in what that church is doing outside of those services. This is also why we need ecumenicalism.
Instead of casting derision on other churches because we don’t agree with their traditions, or the way they ‘do worship’, let us focus on what really matters: the gospel. At the heart of each tradition, whether liturgical or not, is the gospel, and the desire to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). If we can see that, then we can look past that which we disagree, and move closer to building up and unifying the Body in love.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” -(Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)
Each of our lives, individually, is a candle (any other person besides me who automatically thinks of “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John after reading that?). One candle in a dark room can be seen, but the room is still quite dark. Now, imagine that same room flooded with candles burning bright. This is the Body of Christ, unified under one Head, and the darkness will not overcome it.
“And knowing their thoughts Jesus said to them, ‘Any kingdom divided against itself is laid waste; and any city or house divided against itself will not stand.’” -(Matthew 12:25 NASB)
Presbyterian, Catholic, Orthodox, Methodist, Baptist, etc., no matter what denomination, we should never be in competition with each other. The Spirit desires unity, it is the devil who desires division. He knows that as long as the Church stands against herself, it will not be able to stand for truth, and as long as her members fight amongst themselves, she will not be able to fight the good fight against the devil’s schemes.
Satan has studied humanity long enough to know what makes us tick, and what ticks us off. He knows how to exploit our weaknesses and pervert our strengths. All of this he uses to tear down the one institution that can tear down his, the only institution he fears.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” -(2 Corinthians 10:3-5 NASB)
So let us put on Christ today, let us love one another, and bear with one another. Let’s reach across denominational lines to share in the peace of Christ as brothers and sisters in the Lord, and then, like a city on a hill, the light of Christ will shine forth from our hearts as we share the gospel in word and deed together as one Body. And the darkness will not overcome it. Hallelujah!
Father, we thank you for the grace and mercy poured out to us through Your Son, Jesus Christ. We also thank you for the outpouring of Your Holy Spirit. We pray for unity and peace within the Body of Your Son our Lord. Purify our hearts through the washing of Your Word, may we return to You this day. Help us to love one another as You love us. To Your glory and honor may we live. In Jesus Name. Amen.