Like the Apostle Paul did in Ephesians 5, I want to use marriage to launch into a brief point about the Church. Here’s a sermon illustration that appeared in Leadership Journal, c. 1993.
A braid appears to contain only two strands of hair. But it is impossible to create a braid with only two strands. If the two could be put together at all they would quickly unravel.
Herein lies the mystery: what looks like two strands requires a third. The third strand, though not immediately evident, keeps the strands tightly woven. In a Christian marriage, God’s presence, like the third strand in a braid, holds husband and wife together.
This is a powerful little illustration and we, who are married, ought to make sure we haven’t sort of “pushed” God out of our relationship by filling our lives up with so much busyness or entertainment, that He has no place. But that’s not really the point of this article. I want us to think in terms of relational connections at church.
There should be a single strand that runs between each of us in a community that keeps us united. Paul calls it being “of the same mind,” or having “the mind of Christ,” or being “of one accord.” Since the Reformation, people have been gathered in churches based on doctrinal affiliation and later based on polity and even worship style. We might not always agree with specific choices made, but at least these choices are along biblical or “religious” grounds. So the single strand may be rather thick – doctrine, polity, and worship style. But at least the focus, we trust, is how can we best worship the Father of our Lord and Savior!
Something different has been brewing in our churches* with the advent of 24-hour news, the 365-day election cycle and social media. The small talk is starting to sound a lot more like what Paul was encountering all over Asia as dispersed Jewish believers were trying to figure out church with first generation Gentile believers. Each carried personal convictions and/or practices that threatened to shatter the unity of the church. We, these days, are no longer just talking about how work is going or about family life. Politics, and even national health care directives, are now divisive Christian talking points. We need to be reminded, as were the Corinthians and the Romans, that our gathering is about Jesus, not about whether the orange man was good or evil! Or whether vaccines should or shouldn’t be mandated! Or whether you should all be doing keto! (This is fun!)
Romans is known as Paul’s great treatise on the Gospel; it ends with two chapters on unity. Chapter 14 is about unity despite differing personal convictions. The conclusion is, essentially, that we each directly answer to God, not to each other. So stop condemning and/or judging (even with our facial expressions, body language, and Facebook posts)! In Chapter 15, Paul explains why Abba doesn’t want His kids snipping at one another while worshipping Him, any more than you want to try reading a story to kids on your lap who are wrestling one another (or even name calling). It robs those moments of your joy in them! Something to think about.
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 15:5-6
Let’s allow our Third Strand – Christ and His Cross – to grow so thick that nobody knows or cares about whether we root for Donkeys or Elephants every four years! After all, we are rooting for our neighbors to be loved into faith every day!
*I’m aware that politics and church have been interwoven for generations, but I’ve not seen this kind of invasive division before, unless you count all of you ganging up on the Broncos fans who moved here in the 90’s! LOL