When I speak with people about church, they always ask the denomination. Then I say, “Oh it’s non-denominational.” It’s an interesting phrase. There’s different denominations (for example Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist). Then there’s non-denominational. Those are the churches that claim to not be affiliated with any of the known denominations. After the Early Church that you read about in Acts, things started to break apart. As time continued, groups were formed from other groups. Some churches have so many different divisions in their names, it becomes a tongue twister.
The denominations all came about from a difference of beliefs. This still happens today, hence the reason we have tons of church plants and longer than life names. The reason for the differences of beliefs, and at times, disunity of the church, is because we are a broken people. The church is filled with sinners, many sinners who are saved by grace alone. But we aren’t perfect. Some of us are proud, lazy, quick to speak, discontent, disorganized, agenda focused, bossy, or fable telling folks. We aren’t perfect, so it’s hard for us to all live together in harmony.
Nonetheless, the Bible speaks a lot about unity or harmony. Yes, that’s the vision God has for His Church. The capital “C” Church is the universal church. Broken down, this is all of the denominations and non-denominations. Together, as the big C, we need to be united. Remember, the Church is the body of Christ. The Church is people, not buildings. As the big C, we must remember Who we worship, Who we follow, Who is the Head of the Body. Even so, all of the little C’s need to also be united as separate bodies.
This seems like an impossible task. People can rarely get along. There are bound to be disagreements. Yes. Very true. But with God, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2). Remember the reason for the Church. Keep running the race. The Spirit will unite us if we allow ourselves to be led (Ephesians 4:3). Don’t be proud. Don’t think you know it all. Humble yourself and seek the best for others (1 Corinthians 10:24). Love. It’s the bond of perfect unity (see Colossians 3:14). Live in harmony.
“Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!” – Romans 12:16 [NLT]
Today when I was walking my dog, he was charged by another dog. I was prepared for the situation; however, because the same dog owner allowed this to happen weeks ago. Last time, he had let his Golden Retriever run loose and the dog came and snapped at my dog. This time, he left his German Shepherd loose, and although there was no snapping, I was not a happy camper at the second episode of negligence.
In life we will meet a person who will do something that irritates us, that hurts us or something that is wrong. We will throw our hands in the air (or sometimes our fists) and demand change. We will get angry. We will say words (sometimes words that are not positive, life speaking words). We will be frustrated by these people who do not do what we want them to do; however, we cannot expect them to change and act as we wish. Nor can we expect someone to follow the commands of God.
I was mad at this man today. He has proven twice that he cannot handle his dogs. The first time I was upset. I was injured. My dog was frightened. It was not a good situation. This second time, though prepared for it, was just as bad. Even so, some people will not change. We can only control our reactions to a situation—not someone else. It is how you react to any given situation that says something about you. I know I do not always react as I should, but I also know that over the years, the Holy Spirit has helped me to react better to each given situation. Don’t let situations and circumstances control you. React with love.
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12-14 [NLT]
When my kids were smaller they enjoyed playing with sidewalk chalk, drawing their own special creations. We would spend hours outlining our hands, capturing the image of a dog, and writing names. The chalk images and text would stay there for a few days, getting lighter as the time passed by. Sometimes the rain would come and our entire day’s work was gone in an instant, almost like we were never there at all.
The real issue is that although the chalk wipes away, the image is still imprinted in our minds. I can still see some of our sketches. I can picture the smiles on their faces. I can smell the air and even feel the sun beating down upon us. I can hear their laughter. All I need to do is “see” that image in my mind and it all comes back to me like I am there right at this moment.
To me, the purpose of the chalk is that it is making a mark on something. The kids are fascinated about making marks on the pavement. They are leaving their own little imprints. As some get older, they may even make their little marks with graffiti as well. What it all comes down to is leaving a mark.
A mark isn’t simply something that is engraved into a wooden park bench that says “Brian loves Sally.” A mark isn’t merely black spray paint letting it be known that “Tommy was here” at the bridge underpass. A mark may not even be the scribble a toddler leaves on a parent’s refrigerator. I am not talking about those marks at all.
I am talking about meaning. I am talking about purpose. I am talking about something that will be left behind showing that you did something good and you left a mark in someone’s life. A mark is when you touch someone’s life and they are forever changed for the better.
This past weekend I attended a memorial for a dear brother in Christ. He left so many marks on so many lives. The church was filled with individuals united by one purpose– to celebrate his life. He taught some people the importance of prayer. He taught some others to not discard burnt cookies because there is value in everything. He showed us by example. He had a vision to share the Gospel with anyone his path crossed. He served others. He sacrificed. He did everything with love. He surely left one beautiful mark.
The time we have we are uncertain, but we know we are to put it to good use. We know we are to give our lives to Christ. We are to have a vision for our lives with God’s purpose in mind. Andy Stanley wrote, “A carefully planted vision, like a seed, grows to take on a life and shape of its own. Long after the sower is gone, the seed continues to grow” (“Visioneering” 114). My question today is are you allowing God to direct your path, so that His purpose for your life is met? He created you to leave a mark– a mark for His kingdom. It is a mark that does not wash away.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” – Colossians 3:12-14 [NIV]