God didn’t set us up for an angry rejection but for salvation by our Master, Jesus Christ. He died for us, a death that triggered life. Whether we’re awake with the living or asleep with the dead, we’re alive with him! So speak encouraging words to one another. Build up hope so you’ll all be together in this, no one left out, no one left behind. I know you’re already doing this; just keep on doing it. – 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 (MSG)
We who are alive in Christ are so by His pleasure and great love for us — not because of anything we did, but solely by His divine election. We must therefore remember that those who are our brothers and sisters in the great family of God are so because He wishes it, as well. To mistreat His beloved would be a serious transgression. Jesus made it quite clear what state our hearts should be in before we partake of Holy Communion:
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world. – 1 Corinthians 11:27-32 (NIV)
It’s not just some ‘once-a-month reflection’ that is required. As we are required to give to others throughout each day of our life, we must first make sure we have examined ourselves before presenting any gift to His altar.
“You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.
“This is how I want you to conduct yourself in these matters. If you enter your place of worship and, about to make an offering, you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right. Then and only then, come back and work things out with God.
-Matthew 5:21-24 (MSG)
Obviously, we all fall short from time to time in the manner in which we treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, we should be forever grateful for God’s abundant grace! However, if we stop and think more often about what it means to be in this great family of His, we might be more likely not to have to repent so often -and the church as a whole would be so much more effective as a witness for Jesus Christ to a broken, pathetic and fallen world.
I can’t believe the staggering number of protestant denominations alone in the makeup of the great body of Christ we call “the Church.” One estimate I read was over 30,000. I’m sure Satan particularly loves all of this division we endure today as Christians. I would guess it serves his purpose well to see us divided, often because of minor theological differences. So many things that we have differing viewpoints over are tearing us apart: the way we baptize, who we baptize, which sex can do what job in the church, what Bible translation is appropriate and which are not, how much are we to give and to whom, what day to worship, are we free to choose our salvation or predestined? Is the tribulation coming before or after the rapture? Are the gifts of the Spirit for today or have they ceased? On and on it goes. While I know I have my own set views on most of the issues I mentioned, I do not consider any of them serious enough to break fellowship with my brothers and sisters over. (I may try to show you what I consider error as others have done for me, but hopefully because of my interest in God’s truth -and not some overwhelming desire to be right). As a result of thoughtful and loving dialog, I have occasionally changed my mind on certain doctrines when presented with a view point i may not have given serious previous consideration to.
I hope we all give much thought and prayer time to the issue of fellowship within the body and what means to us — and more importantly, to the LORD we serve.