“Sometimes I want to hide in the bathroom,” a friend once said to me, confessing her struggle to love a certain individual in the church.
Does that sound slightly familiar? The opinions, sins, and personality types within the church can really start to irritate us. We might not actually hide in the bathroom, but we’re annoyed all the same.
As tempting as it is to duck out of class due to personality conflicts, that’s not the way of Christ.
Have you noticed how Paul begins his letters in the New Testament? Within the first several paragraphs, he basically shouts, “I’m thankful!” And his thankfulness is always specific. He’s thankful, continuously, for the specific church to whom he’s writing.
Sometimes Paul’s thankfulness makes sense. For instance, the Ephesian believers were known for their faith in Christ and love for God’s people (Eph. 1:15). Of course Paul was thankful for them!
Paul’s thankfulness for the Corinthian church, however, is baffling. This was a church plagued by problems, including division and immorality. Paul knew that some people in the church didn’t like him; yet, before he addresses the many issues in this community, Paul starts his letter by saying, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4).
Paul thanked God for this flawed church because his eyes were fixed on the saving work of Christ. The cross filled his vision, and where we would expect to see hands thrown up in exasperation, we find, incomprehensibly, thanksgiving instead. This is the power of the cross.
People disappoint us. That’s reality. I’m pretty sure my flaws exasperate team members at times, and your personality might annoy someone across the aisle. How could such petty humanity ever result in God-glorifying unity? The answer is, and could only be, Jesus.
Like Paul, we must see the church through the lens of Jesus and His gracious work of redemption.
This is not rose-colored naivety. Rather, we’re submitting our feelings to this truth: Jesus’ death and resurrection changes the identity of every believer in the church. Our God has chosen, adopted, redeemed, and forgiven each one of us.
Are there church members whom you find hard to love? Look at the cross. Thank God for the vast love He has lavished on them.
Are you annoyed? Don’t hide in the bathroom. Instead, thank God for the glorious grace He has given to each believer in Christ, and don’t keep that thankfulness to yourself. Let others know that you are thanking God for them!
We fight Satan’s schemes for disunity by proclaiming thankfulness for Christ’s redemptive work. His work within His people is good and glorious and worthy of praise!
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