“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” John 17:23, KJV
After the family, the next most obvious place where Christ should be reflected is in the church.
“Well, duh,” you might be thinking, but when we sit down and look back at all the interactions with our fellow congregants, who are the true church, could we say that we have reflected Christ to them?
When the water started leaking into the children’s Sabbath School classrooms, when there’s a dispute with the church board on how to distribute funds to the various ministries, when there’s a disagreement in how the church social should be handled – do we always remember to reflect Christ?
Of course, the answer is: no. There are times when attitudes or situations get the best of us and we allow our worldly, sinful self to come through and treat our brothers and sisters in Christ quite poorly.
I just read an article last night in Visitor Magazine, a Seventh-day Adventist publication, about the rise in litigation among church going folks. The article begins:
“We are living in very litigious times. Born again Christians today in the United States file 4-8 million lawsuits every year, often against other Christians, spending $20-40 billion. There are approximately 19,000 church-scarring conflicts in the U.S. each year (an average of 50 per day). Even if Christians sue at only half the rate of non-Christians, the number of lawsuits would be 4 million, reports Ken Sande, founder of Peacemakers Ministries, in his article “The High Cost of Conflict Among Christians” (Feb. 15, 2015, peacemaker.net project).”
It goes on to say that “Critics of court-based litigation efforts today contend that the only winners are the attorneys.” There must be ways, Biblical ways, to settle disputes from the church within the church – and indeed there are. I would encourage everyone to read the above mentioned article for more information.
But I would like to say this: In the true practice of medicine, the concept is to prevent disease and illness before it starts rather than merely handling the symptoms and effects once its arrived. Of course there will be disputes and disagreements in church bodies, because they are filled with different kinds of people with different kinds of opinions and above all – we are all sinful.
If we were to remember to put Christ first in everything, most especially our disputes, then His image will be reflected not only to the members within the church, but in the outer community as well.
May we always seek to keep Christ before, beholding Him that He may shape and mold our characters. When we experience difficult, challenging, and aggravating situations, may we seek His counsel and guidance above all that we will maintain and cultivate the image of His body in our church.
Here’s a rather long, but completely relevant quote from Ellen White in her book That I May Know Him, p. 153:
“There is nothing that can so weaken the influence of the church as the lack of love…The people of the world are looking to us to see what our faith is doing for our characters and lives. They are watching to see if it is having a sanctifying effect on our hearts, if we are becoming changed into the likeness of Christ. They are ready to discover every defect in our lives, every inconsistency in our actions Let us give them no occasion to reproach our faith.
“It is no the opposition of the world that will most endanger us; it is the evil cherished right in our midst that works our most grievous disaster. It is the unconsecrated lives of halfhearted professors that retard the work of the truth and bring darkness upon the church of God.
“There is no surer way of weakening ourselves in spiritual things than to be envious, suspicious of one another, full of faultfinding and evil surmising…
“When you are associated together, be guarded in your words…. If the love of the truth is in your heart you will talk of the truth. You will talk of the blessed hope that you have in Jesus. If you have love in your heart you will seek to establish and build up your brother in the most holy faith. If a word is dropped that is detrimental to the character of your friend or brother, do not encourage this evil speaking. It is the work of the enemy. Kindly remind the speaker that the Word of God forbids that kind of conversation. We are to empty the heart of everything that defiles the soul temple, that Christ may dwell within. Our Redeemer has told us how we may reveal Him to the world. If we cherish His spirit, if we manifest His love to others, if we guard one another’s interests, if we are kind, patient, forbearing, the world will have an evidence by the fruits we bear that we are the children of God. It is the unity of the church that enables it to exert a conscious influence upon unbelievers and worldlings.”
Praise God that He is joy, peace, patience, and so much more.
Praise God that He has called His remnant church to be a light to the world.
Praise God that He will finish the work He has started in the church.
Ask God to show you the sins that you need to confess privately. Claim His victory overs those sins.
Ask God for forgiveness for times when you allowed envy, suspicion, or faultfinding toward your brothers in your heart. Pray for a new heart, filled with love and compassion.
Thank God that He forgives you according to 1 John 1:9.
Ask God to prepare your heart to receive the Holy Spirit.
Pray for your family to be united and that peace and love would rule our churches.
Ask God to purify the church so visitors will sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Pray that church leaders will work in love, compassion, and unity to finish the work Christ gave us to do.
Pray for the worldwide unity of every congregation and church entity, based on respect for God’s Word, humble prayer, the Holy Spirit’s power, respect for accepted church policy/process, and full engagement in the mission of the church.
Pray for humility in our lives so we will be united in our submission to God’s leading and the process of the church.
Pray that we will devote more of our time to eternal values through Bible study and prayer, allowing God to fully direct His people according to His will and not our will. This will help keep us close to God and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to reverse trends of worldliness that threaten God’s church in our daily lives.
Pray for the protection of our young people and all of us from every increasing worldly influences. Pray that we will focus on the Word of God and service to others. Pray that the local churches will sponsor young people in mission outreach and service opportunities.
Pray for any personal needs you have.
Thank God for what He has done in His church and will do through the church.
Thank God that He is willing to cleanse, purify, and lead the church.
Thank God that Jesus prayed for the church that we might be one.
Thank God that He is working in on the hearts of the people you are praying for.
May you be blessed!