I love the church. By this I do not mean that I love the whole church of God which is made up of all believers everywhere though I certainly do love all of God’s redeemed people. I love the local church.
There are many reasons why I love the church but one that stands out in my own mind recently is how the church transforms my relationships.In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul writes to the believers of the local church in Philippi and says “I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel.” Likely these women were having some sort of dispute or tension within the church and their dispute had become public. Paul encourages these two ladies and the church to deal with the dispute. To the ladies he asked that they would be of the same mind in the Lord. Paul does not suggest that they think alike on everything but that as sisters in the Lord that they would be united. To the church he asked that that they, and specifically the true companion, would help these women to be of the same mind.
Paul’s requests were very simple but hidden in these two verses are a world of tensions, hurts, and frustrations. The very fact that Paul had to include this dispute in a public letter means that things had become ugly! The hurt feelings, the award conversations, and the frustrating lack of progress was crippling the local church of Philippi. The old cliche “it takes two to tango” rings loud and clear from this brief account from these two women. Probably both had legitimate frustrations. Probably both had real hurts. Probably both felt the strong tension. But both were redeemed daughters of God through Christ whose names were written in the book of life. As such, both had an incredible opportunity to have themselves and their relationship transformed.
The process of dealing the tensions, hurts, and frustrations within a body of believers can
sometimes be painful. That pain comes in two ways. The first way we feel the pain is when we see the damage the other person brings. It is not pretty sometimes to see how people act or to hear the words that come out of their mouths. Actions and words reveal the heart and all of our hearts are desperately wicked. The second way we feel the pain is when we see the ugliness of our own heart. This for me is where the real pain is. My actions can sometimes be arrogant and self-righteous. My words can be destructive, cutting, unkind, and cruel. Whenever I am in conflict with another believer, often it reveals in me my true heart – it is wicked and it is self-deceived.
At this point my love for the church shines through. The church forces me to deal with the tensions, hurts, and frustrations. The church mandates that I confront, forgive, heal, and love. The church demands that I see the ugly side of myself. And through all of this, by faith I become a little more like Jesus and some of the dark patches of my heart are renewed into the image of Christ. My life is transformed. The relationship in the church is transformed as well. I love the church!