United We Stand?
An ailing father with eighteen sons who bickered and fought non-stop, asked his children to gather a basketful of sticks.
They argued and carried on, shoving each other along the way and competing to see who gathered the most, the largest or the straightest stick.
When they returned to their father’s bedside, he asked them to take a stick from the basket and break it in two. Each did as asked, again arguing over who broke their stick first or which break was cleanest.
Quieting the boys, the father then asked for each of them to grab a handful of sticks and break them as a bundle. In their vanity, they boasted about the simplicity of their father’s request, but none of the eighteen could break the sticks as a bundle.
In his dying breath, the father said, “Sons, remember, separated, you are vulnerable, vain and deceitful, but united, you are unbreakable.” – adapted from Aesop’s Fables.
Have you ever felt divided among your brothers and sisters in Christ? Perhaps over the legitimate definition of a particular genre. Probably over a political issue. Definitely over sin.
But the infighting lately is discouraging. In the last two days alone, I've read Christians posting irate responses to each other over a recipe and a movie clip. Where is the Christianity in that?
In recent weeks, I’ve witnessed hateful conversations differences in worship practices and tithing.
My heart is breaking. We've created an 'us vs. them' environment within our own community. And while we spew toxicity at each other over the “hymn vs. worship music” debate rather than enjoy both, the devil is laughing at how easy his work is.
It’s not easy. But instead of making each other the enemy, we must remember the work God has set before us and who the real enemy is trying to stop us.
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.
We must stand together, with the full armor of God to protect ourselves against the real enemy. When we take off our breastplate of righteousness, simply because we disagree on a social justice issue or when our feet are no longer shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace because we stand on two different sides of the political spectrum, we are left to lust after the flesh of this world. We are left to complain against one another rather than bear one another in peace.
John Wesley is known for repeating this phrase: “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.” (Origin is credited to many, dating back to the 1600’s, if not before). It parallels what Jesus said in Mark 3:25:
“if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
We can disagree about all the things of these world, but we must stand together in the Gospel of Jesus. In all things, we should apply grace, understanding, and perspective to our hearts and meditate why Jesus wants us to stand together.
Because it glorifies his name. Because when two stand together, our Lord is there to crush the enemy under his feet. When we cannot stand together, we are but chaff under the feet of our enemy. And individually, we break easily, but as a bundle, we stand strong.
I pray that we stand firm and hold dearly to our conscience as led by the Holy Spirit. That we show grace when offended, humility when we disagree, and love always.