Growing Up Together - September 2017

“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” Ephesians 4:11–16.

This passage is a great challenge for a nation full of individualists which makes it incredibly important for us right now. For any great enterprise to succeed, it is necessary that people work together. When people work together for a common goal things are accomplished. When they splinter and divide nothing happens. Great movements of history have depended upon people who naturally do not work together coming together for common purpose. At the signing of the Declaration of Independence it is said that Benjamin Franklin quipped “we must, indeed, all hang together or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.” Without that determination to stick together, we would not have a country and our founding fathers would have met their end on a scaffold. However, Benjamin Franklin’s wisdom was nothing new. Then entire Christian faith is predicated on people coming together and “hanging together” in following Jesus. The glue that holds us together is nothing other than the Son of God and His purposes for His church in the world. For this purpose Jesus pours out gifts on His church and the Holy Spirit in our hearts to reproduce His character. The dominant illustration that Paul uses for the church is a body with separate parts joined together, all are individual pieces but none can survive individually. A hand cannot afford to take a vacation from the body for if it did, the body would suffer greatly and the hand would die.

In a physical body this death would occur literally, but in the body of Christ the death that occurs is much more devastating. The life of the body is none other than Christ Himself, He is the head of the body, so to separate ourselves from the body of Christ is to separate ourselves from the head. I might say “I didn't ask for this, I just wanted to follow Jesus!” But this begs the question do I get to decide what it means to follow Jesus, or does Jesus get to decide that. To put it visually, that would be like one of the disciples, maybe Peter saying “Lord I will follow you as long as it's just you and me but if you put me with James and John and Andrew and Bartholomew and don't forget Judas I wont have anything to do with it!” Do we begin to see how preposterous this sounds? Jesus called the disciples to all follow Him in a group because Jesus realizes something that we are slow to learn. It is in community and not in isolation that the character of God is produced. The only kind of love that you can practice on your own is self love i.e. sin. And the only kind of love the believes that love will always easy is foolish sentimentalism. Indeed in the passage quoted above Paul indicates that every part of the body has a responsibility to be “joined and knit together through what every joint supplies.” The passage makes it abundantly clear that this is not always easy to be together because we are imperfect people who are growing slowly to spiritual maturity. The Kingdom of God is not a bunch of lone rangers it is an army united under His banner. The war is against satan and his evil influence on all of humanity (which includes us). And it is the battle where every soldier counts. Jesus knows that the only way for the war to be won is for the army/body to stay together. Satan has only one goal which is to break up the army/body and dismantle it so that it will no longer be of any danger to him. But if we obey Jesus and seek to reflect His Character within the body and prayerfully implore Him to produce in us His righteousness as we interact with our brothers and sisters the world begins to get a glimpse of the love of God. Sometimes easy, often hard, but the only way provided for the people of God to have victory over the god of this world. The challenge of God for this month is to grow up together into Christ in the body He has made us a part of. How will we respond?