Ps. 34:3 says it this way: “Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together.” True unity does not just happen, but it comes from the desire and deliberate decision to submit to Christ and work towards building others up.
There is nothing worse than disunity ~ is not that a primary criticism of the church? Is that not the reason more and more Christian people are declaring in some form, “I love Jesus, I just don’t like the church?” I think we have a measure of momentum here at SACC…. Let’s build on it. Although, in a few moments, I will reluctantly tell you about one internal squabble that is festering here among us.
I reluctantly tell you about a church fight going on right now, right here, among us! The good news is that I have a solution. Most of you probably do not know about this fight. The fight, at it’s root, is about jealousy and pride. The funny thing is that these two squabblers have the same goal ~ don’t you get tired of petty fights? I don’t get why they cannot get along. They look different, but they have a sameness to them. Maybe that is why they fight because they are so close, like two brothers that have so much in common. Church fights can so quickly destroy unity and derail momentum.
Who are the two that are fighting? any of you ever see the movie, Midnight at the Museum? At night the museum collection comes alive and a whole world is born… I’m sorry to tell you that the baby grand piano is fighting with the upright piano! I was so disappointed a couple weeks ago I came unexpectedly into the building at night. I heard our two piano’s fighting. It was a terrible noise. More like fingernails on a chalkboard than a melodious song. “Look at me” I heard baby grand pound away, “just look at my sleek form and my prime place on the platform. Clearly you need to be more like me as each Sunday I create the most beautiful music, and all you do is sit there week after week, shoved against the wall, once in a while a child plays with you or there was that Christmas party last month that they dusted you off.” “Well aren’t you the snobby tinkle toes” retorted the upright piano, “all the space you take up and your constant whining just because once in a while they decide to use faithful keyboard for a Sunday. Don’t be such a one-note space hog and expand your usefulness like me. And on it went.
It is terrible the way the baby grand and upright are fighting. And it is getting worse. Warning: enter this building at night at your own risk. These two pianos are simply out of tune with each other.
I do have a solution, though. This is the way A.W. Tozer says it: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.”
The way the baby grand and the upright piano can find unity: each submit to the standard of the same tuning fork. They do not need to look like each other, they do not need to fill the same niche, or have the same function, yet if they are both tuned to the same fork, they will be tuned to each other. It is the same in the church. How do people who are so different from each other find unity? By being tuned to the same standard, and that standard is Jesus Christ. READ Rom. 15:5. ~~~ “as you follow Christ Jesus.” Jesus is the standard. The tuning fork. You can find unity with people who look different from you, think differently, act differently, have a different focus, a different passion, even people you don’t understand and maybe you don’t like. When baby grand and upright are tuned to the same fork, they will be in tune with each other ~ yet they will both keep their own identity, their own niche, their own place in this church. A.W. Tozer continues: “So one hundred worshipers meet together, each one looking away to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be, were they to become 'unity' conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
We build unity not be trying to become like each other, trying to get each of you to be like me, but rather, for each of us to look to Christ. READ Rom. 15:6…all for ONE, who is Christ Jesus, and ONE for all.
Here’s a little ditty of what it feels like if we try to achieve unity by digging in our heals and working hard at it. Who hasn’t felt this way?
To live up above with the saints that we love,
That will be grace and glory,
To live down below with the saints that we know,
Ah, that’s another story!
How do we build Unity? We each look to Christ, all for ONE, he is the standard to which we must bow. He is the tuning fork. And Jesus is the ONE for all.
Paul brings out other truths for unity to be made a reality. READ Rom. 15:1.
It is important to identify who is the “strong” and who is the “weak.” It’s easy. We get in trouble if we get it backwards. You need to see yourself as the “STRONG” and those who are different from you, those who you don’t understand, as “WEAK.” How many of you feel like you don’t know the Bible so you see yourself as weak, you aren’t a formal leader with a position in the church so you are “weak,” you don’t understand the ins and outs of Christianity so you are “weak”, you have fallen too many times into sin and stuck in a bad way of life so you are “weak,” your family is not supportive of your faith so you are “weak.” See yourself as STRONG because God has gifted you, God loves you… we can always find people who we think have it more together than us, but we are not to compare ourselves to others… take the positive side of who you are in Christ and be extremely grateful, quit dwelling on who you aren’t!
You are no longer a victim, you no longer need to wait till you acquire some knowledge before you start growing in your faith. If you categorize yourself as weak, then you are a victim in your own eyes and you are putting the burden on some outside influence in order for you to draw closer to the Lord.
A true saying: you cannot change others you can only change yourself. Baby Grand’s answer to get in tune with Upright is to try and get upright to become like baby grand, when in fact, what baby grand needs to do is submit to the tuning fork. That’s it. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.” Baby grand does not need to understand upright. Baby grand simply need to bow to the tuning fork. It’s up to Upright to do the same.
As a church, we need to embrace each other. I am so glad the bible uses the phrase “bear with the failings…” that means we don’t have to understand each other in order to work towards unity. Don’t tell me many of you have not looked at the behavior of others and scratched your head. Don’t tell me you have secretly questioned the way others think, what motivates them. “Bear” with them the Bible says… I am incredibly thankful Sally bears with the oddities of Carl, as do all of you.
Another word of wisdom to work towards unity, that is first explained as a negative, but then turns into a positive in vs 2. The last bit of Rom. 15:1 is a second ending to the beginning…. It reads like this: “we who are strong ought…. not to please ourselves.” The ultimate goal of life is not to maximize our own pleasure, not to gain power, not to fulfill our own wishes. You know why it is overrated to live entirely to please ourselves? Because we get bored with ourselves. In the church, the way to find unity with others, to get on the same page, is to NOT LIVE FOR YOURSELF. A couple of times over the decades people have, in kindness, come to me wanting to explain why they decided to leave a church and go elsewhere. “I am not being fed…” As Christians we need to be nourished spiritually, but in order to grow in our relationship with Christ, we also NEED to give.
Unity comes when we put aside our own needs and desires as the top priority. READ Rom. 5:2. When Sally and I lived in San Francisco, I had no idea what to do as a pastor. At one point, I knocked on doors to let people know about the church, to talk to people. One of the largest populations in San Francisco are people who identify themselves as Catholic. As I went to homes it was common for people to explain, “I’m Catholic.” It took me a while, but eventually I came up with this response, what is now a life long theme. “I’m Catholic” they’d say, or “I’m Baptist” or I’m ______ “Wonderful” I tell people. I have no intention of taking you away from your Catholic Church, your Christian Reformed Church, but we are neighbors, Christian Brothers and sisters. If there is anyway I can help you become a better Catholic, that’s what I want for you.”
Deliberately seek to build others up, make it a habit, a primary purpose, help others see with more clarity and experience what it means to be faithful to God.
The church that is united in one heart is unstoppable. Unity is achieved through each of us seeing ourselves as strong and bowing before the Lord. Unity is nurtured when each of us cares more about others than ourselves, looking to build them up. And more than anything else, unity is a God thing when each of us submits ourselves to God, so that we each become in tune with Jesus Christ. If 100 pianos are tuned to the same tuning fork, they are all in tune with each other.
All for ONE and One for all.