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Transformed by One Another
By Joel Comiskey
Winter 2011 (chapter 3 of Relational Disciple)
by Joel Comiskey
Mary Franciscus, a good friend and member of our church, was driving down the narrow road from Lake Havasu on a hot summer day when her right front tire ripped apart. The car skidded and swerved into the opposite lane. As she looked up, she saw an SUV approaching from the other direction. Fearing for her life and the little ones in the car, she desperately jerked her car to the right, pulling back into her lane and barely missing the SUV that barreled by. She pulled over, the car skidded to a stop, and everyone sighed with relief.
But what was she going to do in the 110 degree heat, far from her husband Humphrey's help?
Before she could call 911, she turned around to see three marines walking toward her. On the back window of their car was a bumper sticker, "Not of this world." "Can we help?" they said. "Thanks so much," Mary blurted out. Is all this really happening? she thought. The three men changed the tire and even checked the brakes. She then asked if she could pray for them, knowing they were on their way to Afghanistan. They nodded in agreement. Later in the car, Mary said to her kids, "God had a purpose in all this. God wanted me to pray for them." I can imagine the Marines getting back in their car and saying, "She really needed us. God wanted us to help her." And they needed each other. Mary required the helping hand for her car and the Marines needed prayer for their service in Afghanistan. We need each other. The term in the Bible for "one another" is a reciprocal pronoun meaning "mutual ministry." The triune God is a model of community. God desires that the love relationship between members of the Trinity transforms His Church.
Focusing on Others
I've tried to create categories that make the biblically based one-anothers more easily understood. One broad category is to focus on others, rather than on oneself.
We naturally focus on our own needs and wants. Someone said that when you're fifteen years old, you are concerned about what others think about you. When you're forty-five, you really don't care what people think about you. When you're sixtyfive, you realize that no one was thinking about you anyway! The truth is that we spend most of our time thinking about ourselves. Paul said, "For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 2:21). The triune God longs to guide us to focus on others.
Love one Another
We are taught from a young age to rise to the top, as a rock climber might scale a precipice. "Make it on your own" is a well-known refrain. While personal achievement is not wrong, Jesus asks us to make sure we're not stepping over others in the process.
Christ's mandate to the disciples superseded personal achievement. He told them to highlight the interest of others over their own personal interest. He said to them, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35).
The context of these verses is Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. Christ's command was straight forward: do what I'm demonstrating. Such love was revolutionary in those days, just as it is in our day.
Serve one Another
The disciples were a lot like us. They had visions of personal grandeur and success. Two of the disciples walked up to Jesus, asking to occupy positions of power in the kingdom (Mark 10:37ff).
The two were willing to leapfrog over the other disciples, if necessary. They asked, "Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory." Notice the response of the other ten disciples, "When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John" (Mark 10:41).
I was reminded of a scene in the movie "Yes Man," in which Jim Carey tries to land an executive position, only to find more than one hundred unemployed ex-executives clawing, striving, and viciously competing for one opening. Trying to climb over others to make it to the top always breeds indignation, envy, and competition.
The mentality of many is, "Do whatever it takes to climb to the top, even if it means walking over others on the way there." Christ responded to the two disciples saying:
You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, andtheirhighofficialsexerciseauthority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wantstobefirstmustbeslaveofall. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).
According to Jesus, the greatest disciples are those who reach down to make others successful. They are empowered with God's Spirit to serve others before themselves. This is such a contrast to our own selfish desires that it requires a new nature to make it work.
And God readily supplies supernatural love to those who ask. Paul says:
For Christ's love compels us, . . . And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again (2 Corinthians 5:14).
As God's love flows through us, we are empowered to serve others and to look not only on our own interests but of those of others (Philippians 2:4).
Forgive Each Other
"Real men get even." At least that's the perception reinforced by many Hollywood movies. In such movies, the actor launches off on a personal crusade to kill all those who have wronged him. Real life, of course, is much different. Often, offended people get even by withdrawing. They stop talking. Stop communicating. Leave. Many marriages end up in this manner, filled with bitterness for years to come.
What's true in the world is also observed in churches. Churches are filled with hurting, difficult people. Jesus tells us to forgive each other. Membership is often like a rotating door of congregants from one church to another. And the reasons for leaving often have to do with disliking the pastor, problems with a board member, or being overlooked to lead a program. So people leave, hoping the problems won't appear in the next church.
Jesus tells us not to be bitter and resent others. The way forward is through forgiveness. This doesn't mean ignoring problems, but it does mean that whether or not others make godly responses to our appeals or confrontations, we still need to forgive. Of course, none of us have the power to forgive; therefore, we need His grace and power to forgive. He did say He would give us strength if we asked (Matthew 7:7).
I dealt with one believer who left a church and held deep bitterness against the pastor. The pastor said to me, "It's like he's drinking the poison he hopes will kill me." So true, I thought.
Paul is writing to the church when he says in Colossians 3:13, "Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Author Mike Mason writes:
If you want to be free, set others free. Give everybody lots of rope, even if they try to use it to hang you. To love people is to enjoy them truly, warts and all. Give everyone the freedom to be imperfect (note 22).
Build Up Each Other
It's so easy to use gossip to tear people down. I remember one church member who loved to talk about her great accomplishments while gossiping about the shortcomings of others. Although she had many wonderful traits (e.g., diligence, relational skills), her words were like a whirlwind, wreaking havoc on those in her path. I had to confront her on more than one occasion and was concerned about what her actions would be at the next church she attended.
Writing to the church, Paul says, "So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another" (Romans 14:19). We are Christ's body on the earth, and we need to lift each other up by speaking truth to each other.
The phrase "build-up" in the Greek literally means to reconstruct each other's lives (oikodomeo). All of us have areas that need renewal and repair. Jesus uses fellow believers as messengers to speak into our lives. It's often hard to be willing to receive correction from others, but this is an important part of becoming Christ's disciple.
Paul said to the Romans, "I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong" (1:12). Yet, in the next sentence he says, ". . . that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other's faith." We need each other and our spiritual gifts come to life as we minister to one another in the body of Christ.
Encourage Each Other
When Peter denied Jesus three times, I wonder if Peter entertained the idea of ending it all in his state of hopelessness. But Peter wasn't alone in his despair. The other disciples had also denied they knew Jesus. Peter turned to them in his grief, and they all rejoiced together when they saw the resurrected Christ.
Rugged individualists glory in self-sufficiency. Yet, the reality is that humans are frail. We can't do it on our own. None of us are so capable and confident that we don't need and appreciate being encouraged.
Life has a way of beating us down and making us feel that we just don't quite measure up. Dan Blazer writes in The Depression Epidemic: Many of us are subject to sometimes dehumanizing corporate or economic systems not of our making and seemingly beyond our influence. We feel small, insignificant, and expendable (note 23).
The impersonal nature of this world tends to suck the life from us. We feel dehumanized and mechanical. Encouragement refreshes us. It reminds us that God has a purpose and plan for our lives. We're encouraged to press on. Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
Jesus is coming soon. But until that moment, we need to press on in the face of doubt, and discouragement. God-inspired encouragement, like a bridge, helps us to pass over dark depression and uncertainty and get to the other side. Paul says, "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Be Kind to One Another
Secretly showing kindness to someone doesn't make headlines as a Billy Graham event, a bestselling Christian book, or a concert of a famous Christian band does.
Yet, God sees caring acts of love and kindness done for His glory. Hebrews 6:10 says, "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them."
Kindness is the practice of being sympathetic and compassionate. It's an act that shows consideration and caring. Paul tells us to "Be kind and compassionate to one another . . ." (Ephesians 4:32). The world attaches weakness to such kindness, but when Christ controls a believer, the fruit is kindness, compassion, and sympathy toward others.
My mother lightens up all those around her. Her gift of service and kindness is unmatched. She doesn't simply tell people she loves them, she shows it. People like to be around Phyllis Comiskey because she's so generous. She can't go by a garage sale without thinking of my kids. My mother makes my kids, and everyone else around her, feel special and cared for through her acts of kindness. John the apostle writes:
Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything (1 John 3:18-20).
Mike Mason highlights the promise of confidence in 1 John 3:19-20 by saying, ". . . I've learned the power of small deeds of kindness for lifting depression. Kindness lifts depression because it strikes at the root of depression, which is self condemnation" (note 24).
Christians began many of the world's great social programs. The founders were believers who simply wanted to reach out in Christ's name through humble and selfless acts of kindness. You show kindness in simple ways: giving up your seat on a crowded bus, offering your jacket, cooking a special meal, offering a ride, or helping place a carry-on in the overhead bin.
Be Devoted to One Another
When Jesus enters our hearts, our lives are transformed, and we are given a completely new nature.
My conversion to Christ thirty-six years ago was an amazing, supernatural event. God has also been working another conversion in my heart. It's a conversion to one another. Paul says in Romans 12:10, "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love." The word "devoted" might be translated "kindly affectioned." Paul had the devotion of a family in mind.
Those in the church are part of a heavenly family, joined together by Jesus Christ Himself. Devotion to one another implies we won't run when life is difficult. It's a commitment that we shouldn't take lightly.
None of us are lone-rangers on this journey in Christ's kingdom. Rather, we are fellow travelers on the same heavenly-bound journey. Scripture tells us to look out for one another and hold each other accountable.
Instruct One Another
Frank lived with a woman for years while attending the Sunday morning services in an evangelical church. No one asked him about his arrangement with the woman. Most likely no one even knew about it. One Sunday when he was at church, I invited him to the small group at my house, which I led. He accepted the invitation and became a regular member of the group. His lifestyle soon became apparent. He couldn't hide. The people in the group began to minister to Frank.
God's Word through others began to convict Frank's heart that he should either marry or break-up. Frank agreed to separate from his livein partner, while they decided what to do. They eventually married, entered our discipleship training, and became leaders of a small group.
Scripture tells us that we are God's instruments to instruct each other. Paul says, "And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another" (Romans 15:14). Paul was writing to a house church, in which everyone knew each other. Paul wanted the believers to know that they were the ministers. God had equipped them to speak into each other's lives and counsel one another. Sometimes we depend too much on the "preacher" to do the work of the church. Paul believed that all Christians were ministers.
The best way to instruct one another is through God's Word. Paul says in Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
My wife and three daughters recently journeyed to Panama on a mission trip. Together they had to raise eight thousand dollars in three months. Upon hearing this, one person said, "That's impossible." My wife politely "admonished" this person saying, The Bible says, "What is impossible with men is possible with God" (Luke 18:27). God empowered Celyce and my daughters to raise all eight thousand dollars before leaving. The person who doubted now likes to tell the story about the time his own unbelief confronted the truth of God's Word. God's Word won, of course.
Submit to One Another
Submission is a rarely spoken word in a modern, politically correct culture. Independent, freethinking, and even rebellious people are prized and esteemed. Biblical truth, however, surpasses what people prize. And Scripture tells us to submit to one another. Paul says in Ephesians 5:21, "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Paul writes this verse immediately before talking about husband and wife relationships.
Husbands are quick to point out the need for wives to submit. Yet, Paul tells husbands, wives, and the church at large to submit to one another. Mike Mason says:
In fact, the essential way we are to submit to God is by submitting to one another. A certain religiosity may cause us to humble ourselves before God. But unless we also humble ourselves before people, we are fooling ourselves. Relationships with people are the litmus test of our holiness (note 25).
The church of Jesus Christ is called to submit to one another.
Confess Sins to One Another
God recently showed me how to resolve a troubling issue in my own life. He then revealed that I needed to be more transparent about the issue and to ask for prayer. When I shared it with others, they also became transparent about their own problems.
We all have struggles. We are on a journey, and God's love and grace encourage honesty with one another. Deitrich Bonhoeffer writes:
You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him. He wants to see you as you are. He wants to be gracious to you. You do not have to go on lying to yourself and your brothers, as if you were without sin; you can dare to be a sinner. Thank God for that. He loves the sinner, but He hates the sin. All shame was ended in the presence of Christ. Community is a place where people can be vulnerable and transparent (note 26).
God powerfully worked in the lives of the youth at our church after they came back from a conference. God changed them at the event, but the fire kept on burning through the times of confession and prayer within the group as the weeks and months wore on. One person in particular was gut-level honest about his sins and failings. He was the spark that ignited others to share about their struggles.
Confession of sin and praying for one another has always been a part of revivals around the world. Superficiality, though, is the enemy of revival. Bonhoeffer continues:
Now he stands in the fellowship of a sinner who lives by the grace of God in the cross of Jesus Christ. Now he can be a sinner and still enjoy the grace of God. He can confess his sins and in this veryactfindfellowshipforthefirsttime. The sin concealed separated him from the fellowship, made all his apparent fellowship a sham; the sin confessed has helped him to find true fellowship with the brethren in Jesus Christ (note 27).
Our sinful nature tends to exalt self before others. Scripture tells us that we need to look upon our brothers and sisters as more important than ourselves. This is a supernatural activity because we are naturally born selfish. Paul the apostle says:
I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:19-21).
It requires a supernatural work of grace to go beyond our own selfishness and think about the needs of others.
Walk in humility with One Another
Have you ever been in a group in which everyone wanted to be the center of attention? Did you notice that people weren't really listening? Or that everyone wanted to talk at the same time?
We long for the spotlight. We crave the attention, credit, and esteem of people. The problem is that everyone wants the same thing.
True servants of Jesus are willing to humble themselves, deny the spotlight, and esteem others better than themselves. Peter says, "Clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble" (1 Peter 5:5). God's plan is for us to walk humbly, give up our own rights, and allow others to be lifted up. True humility is a work of God's grace within. There's nothing in us that desires humility or longs for it. Yet the Trinity desires to perfect this characteristic in us.
Accept One Another
Christ's church is made up of imperfect people with many needs. His church is mocked by the world's version of high society—the in group. In comparison, the church of Jesus Christ is a hospital, full of broken, hurting people. And because we are all saved and accepted by God's grace, we must accept all those in Christ's family. Larry Crabb writes:
I don't need to keep up my guard. I can actually accept you as God for Christ's sake has already accepted me. When you offend me, I can nourish the spirit of forgiveness within me because it's there. I may have to look hard for it, but it's there. I've been forgiven, and I've been given the urge to forgive, the same urge that led to my being forgiven. I can pour into you the life that has been poured into me (note 28).
Jesus accepted me when I was opposed to Him, living in rebellion. The Bible even says that while we were enemies of God, He reconciled us to Himself (Romans 5:10) and made us alive when we were dead in sin (Ephesians 2:5). Because no one is part of God's church because of personal merit or righteousness, God calls us to accept all those who He has accepted, in spite of the differences. Paul says in Romans 15:7, "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." The basis for accepting others as they are is the fact that God has accepted us just as we are. Paul tells us that God has chosen the foolish and despised to bring glory to Himself:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).
True disciples of Christ accept people as they are, with all their fears, weaknesses, ethnic differences, and backgrounds. As with the other relational truths of Scripture, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to actually put this one into practice. Mason says:
If I want to know true fellowship with others,thefirststepisthesame:tomake a decision to join my heart with theirs. Then together we ask Jesus to come into the one new heart that has been formed between us (note 29).
Live at Peace with One Another
The early believers often faced conflict. Families were ripped apart due to persecution. Believers sometimes met underground, away from the watchful eyes of the Roman Empire. Jesus, knowing the believers would face persecution, said to them, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). Peace in times of persecution is a necessity.
Peace is also needed in the middle of interpersonal strife. Envy, jealousy, and bitterness can so easily cloud our relationships with one another. The Early Church had to carefully guard against the pettiness that comes with human conflict. Paul exhorted the believers to "Live in peace with one another" (1 Thessalonians 5:13b).
Living at peace with others means accepting people the way God has made them and forgiving their faults. Speaking the truth in love to people is a prerequisite for living at peace. Avoidance of gossip is a sure remedy for strife and turmoil.
Bear with Each Other
The majority of Western culture is now indoctrinated with evolutionary teaching. This theory promotes the survival of the fittest, which supposedly is how certain species survive and others perish. The natural conclusion of evolution is that the strong survive, and the weak perish. Hitler's Germany was an extreme example of such teaching.
Scripture tells us that God created all people equal. The weak are just as important as the strong. God tells us to bear with the weak to uplift them. Paul says:
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me" (Romans 15:1-3). And then in another passage, Paul writes, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ" (Galatians 6:2).
Jesus didn't pass by the blind and the afflicted on His way to fellowship with those in high positions. Rather, he spent more time with those who had needs and burdens. He healed the blind and gave food to the hungry. He fulfilled Isaiah's prophesy:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor (Luke 4:18-19).
Jesus demonstrated for us the need to bear with the weak and helpless. We can't bear the burdens of others if our primary relationship with them is just on Sunday morning. We need to get close to people to hear their hearts, know their needs, and bear their burdens.
Wait for One Another
David Shi, a cultural historian, writes about the inability to slow down in America. Waiting is intolerable. We work endlessly and press on against all odds. Edward Stewart says:
The foreign visitor in the United States quickly gains an impression of life lived at a fast pace and of people incessantly active. This image reflects that doing is the dominant activity for Americans. The implicit assumption that "getting things done" is worthwhile is seldom questioned (note 30).
Waiting is practically anathema in a hurried and rushed world. Paul's exhortation to the Corinthians is timely in our day and age: "So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so that when you meet together it may not result in judgment" (1 Corinthians 11:33). Waiting on others is difficult, so we need God's strength to make it happen. All things are possible!
Like the Corinthians, we often lack the selfdiscipline and patience to wait for others. We need to hear Paul's exhortation to allow Christ to form His character in us, which places others above ourselves and highlights the discipline of waiting on one another.
Honor One Another
In the Early Church, it wasn't uncommon for slaves to be leading the house church meetings, while the masters would intently listen. Such is the nature of the body of Christ, in which all members are important—both men and women. In ancient culture, women were considered to be inferior to men. Yet Paul says:
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (Galatians 3:26-29).
Christ envisioned a church in which all members had the same care and honor for each other. Paul says in Romans 12:10, "Honor one another above yourselves." This is the beauty of Christ's body in that even the lowliest receive honor and equal standing.
To honor Jesus means honoring the Christ who lives in every believer. Each member of the body of Christ is a chosen child of the King who will live forever with the Master. If we honor the Master, we must also honor those who He has chosen.
Use Your Gift among Each Other
Many have been hurt by worldliness in the church, which leads them to say, "I don't need organized religion." And I would agree that we don't need organized religion. But we do need Christ's supernatural, organic body in which He empowers its members to use their gifts to minister to one another.
The gifts are not an impersonal phenomenon that people do alone. God gifts His people to minister to one another. Each time the gift passages are highlighted, the New Testament writers use body terminology. Gifts, in other words, function reciprocally. Each part of the body plays a role in both giving and receiving.
Every born-again believer has at least one gift. Peter says:
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever (1 Peter 4:10-11).
Whether you have a speaking gift (e.g., teaching, pastoring, prophesy) or a service gift (e.g., mercy, helping, giving), God desires for you to discover it and manage it well.
God distributes the gifts to build up and empower His church. This is why God placed the "love chapter" (1 Corinthians 13) between the two key chapters about the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12 and 14). The motivation for using God's gifts is to strengthen others in the faith—never to show off or to impress others.
Show hospitality to One Another
We planted our church in Moreno Valley, California, using our house as the launching pad. I struggled with the constant barrage of people in our home and the resulting messiness. I found it hard to practice hospitality and was on my knees a lot, asking God for patience and grace to deal with certain people. God continually had to remind me that my home and possessions are not my own. They belong to Him, and He wants to use them to bless others.
When I have shared these struggles with others, I've found that I'm not alone. One of the greatest hindrances to small group ministry is the lack of hospitality.
In New Testament times, the homes of the believers served as both church building and hotel for traveling preachers and ministers. Hospitality was a necessity. With urgency Peters says, "Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling" (1 Peter 4:9).
In today's society, hospitality is becoming a lost art. People are often possessed by their possessions, insist on their personal time, and open their homes less and less. God is calling relational disciples to open their hearts and homes to others.
Things have a tendency to possess us. We start focusing on the things rather than the purpose for them. When God graciously gives a nice home to a believer, it's to use in the service of others.
Most of the one-another verses are positive. Yet, Scripture also warns believers against the invasion of the sinful nature. And this nature, like the devil himself, is prone to kill, steal, and destroy (John 10: 10). God calls relational disciples to reflect His character, avoiding the opposite tendencies.
Do Not Lie to Each Other
Bernard Madoff was convicted of operating a Ponzi scheme that was the largest investor fraud ever committed by a single person (reportedly almost sixty-five billion dollars in fabricated gain). On June 29, 2009, he was sentenced to one hundred fifty years in prison.
It's hard to comprehend how Bernard Madoff could swindle billions of dollars from friends, family, and investors while knowing all that time that he was stealing their money. Perhaps Madoff felt a certain exhilaration and power in impressing people with his money-making scheme. I guess we'll never know.
Like Madoff, our sinful nature is consumed with projecting a certain image to impress people. Our new nature, in contrast, discovers total fulfillment and self-worth in Jesus, where there's no need to lie and deceive. Jesus said in John 3:20-21:
Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.
Those who come into the light know they can't hide anything from an ever-present God. It's impossible. And because we can't hide from God, it's useless to try to hide things from one another. In Colossians 3:9 Paul says, "Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices."
Light and lies don't mix. Lies seek darkness. Truth lives in the light. And Scripture calls believers the children of the light. We no longer are in darkness because Christ has set us free.
Do Not Fight with Each Other
Before speaking in a conference in Belfast, I had the chance to tour the streets. Graffiti marked buildings and bunkers that set apart the Catholic and Protestant sectors of the city.
Only now is healing returning to that war-torn part of the world. Paul says, "If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other" (Galatians 5:15).
Strife and conflict create more turmoil. Bitterness leads to more bitterness. Paul tells the church to stop it. Resist biting and devouring one another and let love reign. Paul gives this advice to his spiritual son Timothy:
And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:24-26).
As believers, we're not immune to the vicious cycle of "biting and devouring." Yet, as we grow in Christ, we realize how unproductive it is to give way to anger and bitterness. Relational disciples know that God is not honored by hatred, so they choose to follow the path of peace and love.
Do Not Envy One Another
Envy is part of the sinful nature list of Galatians 5:19-21. Envy is often a secret sin that eats away at the soul. Paul tells believers to choose another path: "Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other" (Galatians 5:26). Often we become envious when we forget God sets members in His body as He pleases. When we forget this fact, we start comparing ourselves with others, wanting gifts and positions outside God's will.
The Holy Spirit desires to give us a generous spirit that esteems other people. The prayer of the believer is, "Lord, free me from envy and help me to esteem others." Only Christ in us can give us the power to truly esteem others, turning envy into honor and respect.
How refreshing when a believer resists envy and builds up others. My brother Jay is like that. My mom and I joke about Jay saying, "Jay doesn't have a jealous bone in his body." Jay is always building others up. He always seems to have the best interests of the other person in mind.
Do Not Judge One Another
C.S. Lewis once said that pride is putting down others to make ourselves look good. Pride, in other words, shows itself when we judge others. The thought process is, "I'm actually doing pretty good in comparison with so-and-so." Paul tells believers to take the higher road saying, "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way" (Romans 14:13).
I was in one church recently in which I felt God's love throughout the congregation. As I spent time with the church leadership, I realized that a key value they displayed was the refusal to tear others down and the commitment to speak positively about others. The uplifting atmosphere of the church drew people like a magnet, and Jesus was ultimately glorified. People already receive enough criticism, both from their own conscience and those around them. The world, the flesh, and the devil major on belittling others. Paul says: Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
Judgment belongs to God. Only He knows and sees the entire story. We are so limited in what we know and perceive that it's far better to leave judgment in His hands, knowing He will reveal all things in His time.
Although we live in this world, we are part of another one. The new world order is radically different than this one. It follows different rules and guidelines.
The good news is that God fills us with the Holy Spirit to make the Bible clear to us. And just as importantly, He gives us the power to fulfill what the Bible teaches.
One of the ways in which God transforms us is through conflict. I believe that God allows conflict in our lives to forge love and community with one another. It's quite easy to sing songs about love, service, and humility. It's quite another story to practice these disciplines in the middle of a battle, when every emotion screams no way. In the next chapter, we'll look at how God molds us into relational disciples through conflict.