Always be humble and gentle. Patiently put up with each other and love each other. Ephesians 4:2 (CEV)

The facts of this story are made up. The reality of the story is repeated at different levels all over the world. Those who Jesus prayed would love each other as a sign of God’s love spend time fighting about things of finite importance while the things of eternity are overlooked.

First Church was a charming church in a mid-sized city in the Midwest. The church was over 100 years old and had remained a solid influence in the community. Many were baptized, married and buried as a result of First Church.

As the small town grew, so did First Church. As a result it soon began to feel growing pains and it was evident that something had to change. Since it was located on a lot that encompassed and entire city block, the church leaders proposed adding on to the current sanctuary in order to minister better to the younger generation.

That’s when the trouble began. The thought of changing the century old building didn’t sit well with the Smith family. Great-great-grandpa Smith was one of the charter members of First Church. The family was wealthy and influential at First Church as well as in the entire town.

Then again, so were the Jones’. Old Martin Jones owned the lumber company that provided all the lumber for the building…free. Jones’ Lumber Company still held a sizable investment in the community and promised a good price on material for the building program.

Soon the church was divided between those siding with the official ‘Smith’ delegation and those who agreed with the Jones’ and the leadership that something must be done and adding on was the best, least intrusive way to improve the ministry.

Eventually, the disagreement moved outside church walls and into the courts as the Smith’s and Jones’ decided to duke it out in front of a judge. The lawsuit included the church and put a sizable strain on the church budget, not to mention the spiritual atmosphere of the church family.

The fight became so intense that eventually many left First Church and started their own church across town in the school gymnasium. The legal fees and the loss of membership not only tainted the image of First Church, it forced them to close their doors.

How we respond to people we disagree with determines our view of God’s power and their view of God’s Grace. The Apostle Paul challenged the church in Ephesus (and us?) to live in harmony with each other. The word ‘gentle’ can also be translated ‘meek.’ Meekness means we set aside our own feelings for a greater good. Meekness means we see the Kingdom of God as being more important than the work of a man’s hands.

The one admonishing the church to live in gentleness was far from gentle in his earlier life. Look at the description of Saul (Paul) before his conversion: Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. Acts 9:1-2 (NIV)

What was the difference? Saul met Jesus. One need only to read the letters Paul wrote to the New Testament church to see that even in his gentleness, he never lost his tenacity. It was just redirected from his own personal convictions to the leading of the Savior.

We aren’t called to change people. We are called to be meek and allow God’s power to change people. The meek not only inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5), they show the world the love of Jesus Christ.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you prayed in the garden for unity and love to show through us so others will see you. We haven’t done well with that. Help us to live in unity so others will see you. Amen.

 

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