“A dispute arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And He (Jesus) said to them…”Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as the one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as one who serves.”- Luke 22:24, 26-27
They had just taken the Lord’s Supper for the first time. Jesus was explaining to His disciples the new covenant, the covenant of His blood that would be poured out shortly thereafter. Jesus had just mentioned that one would betray Him- and conversational chaos erupted. The argument over who was the greatest among them began.
As outsiders looking in, this conversation can come as a shock to us. The disciples were always doing things in an untimely, ironic manner it seems. Really? Talking about who is the best human in a moment like this? Fighting over favor and rights when something so sacred and transformative was about to occur? It seems shocking, unless we fast forward to today and look at some of our own situations and interactions. And- let us not forget- the disciples were like family. We all know the closer we get to other imperfect human beings, the more likely we are to find disagreement and dispute. The truth is, relationships are messy. It’s why so many avoid commitment. They love the beginning of a friendship or romantic endeavor- it is safe, fun, light-hearted. Yet, when baggage begins coming out and wounds begin to form, running seems much easier than working. Fleeing looks like a better option than figuring out. And, we can be confident of something in the midst: the Enemy of our souls loves it.
God is a God of reconciliation. It’s what He does. He did it once and for all on the cross, and He loves to walk us through reconciliation in relationship with others as well. God wants togetherness, Satan wants division. God desires peace, Satan seeks destruction and confusion. God purposes wholeness, Satan thrives on others’ brokenness.
If Satan had it in him to love anything- I would venture to say he loves the current state of our world.
Beyond the state of the general society, the relationships between God’s children is totally up the Enemy’s alley, too. We have formulated so much division between differing political and theological views that we have forgotten what we stand for- namely, the Hope found in Jesus Christ. We find small pockets of people, both on social media and in our “real” lives, that agree with our stance, and we cling to these people. They are easier. They remind us more of ourselves, and we find comfort in that. We mock the other side, either in our head or out loud, and while there are some of us who do not voice that mockery to others because “it wouldn’t be loving”; our hearts are fixated on where they simply have it all wrong. Meanwhile, the opportunity to be the hands, feet, and heart of Jesus in a literal dying world is all around us- yet we are too busy arguing with other Christ followers to notice.
Are we that different than the Disciples as they sat and took that first communion?
This week, my conversations and lessons learned through our girls have taken a back seat. It’s not because I don’t think they are important to God; and it’s certainly not because there aren’t things going on. The seizures and seizure meds are still taking a toil on all of us; and I currently have a cough that I fear would put the girls in a compromised state if they catch it. I can protect them from the outside germs to a certain extent, but there is only so much physical protection I can offer them when their main caregiver is ill. So, we simply pray. And trust no matter what happens. However, I am so unbelievably connected and concerned with the Body of Christ right now; so much so that it absolutely has to come first in both prayer, conversation, and exhortation. We have an unbelievably opportunity to display the love of God to a watching world right now. I really believe with all my heart that the way we love one another as Christian brothers and sisters could be transformative to those around us. Yet, loving is hard. Relationships are messy. People are imperfect; and so, we find it easier to give money or discuss the orphan and widow than we do to attempt to reconcile, commune, and love. Sometimes, living in community is more challenging than giving to those in need. Often, talking about those hurting across the world comes more naturally than reaching out to the person across the table from you.
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are…that they will all be one, just as you and I are one…may they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”- John 17:11, 21-23
My attempt to make this shorter than usual has already been unsuccessful, but I want to briefly discuss the verses above in order to spur us on to much bigger and better things than Facebook rhetoric. This was a personal communion of prayer of Jesus and His Father while Jesus was still on earth. I think we have much to learn from what He asks and desires for God’s children. Initially, Jesus asks for protection. Not as a safety precaution; but a protection from the evil one SO THAT they will be united. I think Jesus knew at a deeper level than I will comprehend on this side of heaven how tempted we would be to divide and isolate. God’s goal for Christ followers is that we would unite as one. That we would authentically live life together. This does not happen just by putting on a happy face and your most modest outfit, sitting down at a pew on Sunday, listening to a sermon, smiling at the people around you, and then heading back to “your own life”. No. This happens when we invest all- yes, I said all- of our moments with the family of God. It occurs when you feel the freedom to come to the table broken, bruised, confused, fearful, and hurt- without any fear of being judged. It begins when the needs of the church become equally important to us than the needs of our own families and circles. Oh, that we would not make our children or spouses an idol above the call to serve. Community begins with the foundational truth that you are loved not because of who you are, but because of who God is. When you are able to truly hold fast to this, you are able to love others in their own personal brokenness as well. You see, no matter what our differences- racial, economical status, family size, personal sin struggles- what connects us as believers trumps it all- that we are great sinners and that God is a great God. What we believe- that Jesus Christ took on the weight of all of our sin so that we could be free to love Him and loves others- makes any other differences minor. And, as we unite together on the basis of Christ and Christ alone, lives are changed. Both ours and the world around us, for we begin to look much, much different than this world. It’s not that we are not still broken and messy; in fact, it’s that we are still broken and messy and we are loving one another anyway! This is what dispels the evil around us- a love that knows no boundaries. This is the love of God that passes all understanding.
The last part of the verses above must be mentioned as well. Jesus says, “May they experience such perfect unity…that you love them as much as you love me”. Jesus knew He was loved. His mission on earth was to die a horrendous death on the cross so that we can all experience eternal life with Him- and in the midst of this calling- He knew He was loved. He did not think He was loved in spite of the suffering; He knew His Father’s love for Him allowed the suffering for purposes bigger than the human mind could fathom. Friends, may we take on this heart attitude as well! May we know we are loved in the midst of the trial, the suffering, the pain, the hurting. May we begin to live in true community with those around us who have the Spirit of God in them- not just those who share the same opinions as us; but every Christ follower on our computer screen or in our church or on the street, simply because what connects us is eternally bigger than what disconnects us. The way we love one another truly plays a role on how the world around us sees Jesus. It will not matter how well we are serving those outside the church if we cannot serve our own brothers and sisters with the same fervor. Beloved, let’s walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which we have been called. May we bear with one another in love, and may we be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3). The time is now.
“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Jesus had.”- Romans 15:5