Peace activists push for the the long-awaited, Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, with its mystical love, harmony and tranquility that will end this hate-filled world's wanton killing. Though their sit-ins and hunger strikes seem like a great idea, it seems the only hate that draws their fire is that of racial, sexual, social and religious intolerance, and of course, the big, expensive wars. Why don't they bother with the more subtle expressions of hatred, and the little altercations that kill or maim just a few people at a time?
The most volatile of mini-wars are the hot, frustration-fueled tempers in traffic that bring out cursing, and even guns. Fights in bars turn into brawls, and if not broken up quickly, people get hurt or killed in their petty, alcohol-fueled wars. Work-place squabbles can even get pretty hot, when competition for advancement, or functioning staplers, brings out the warrior in people.
We church-folks know better than to expect some Aruarian Age to end the strife. Though we've come to expect such law-less behavior among people of the world, we who have God's Spirit living in us enjoy the unqualified love shared by the body of Christ. With God's love filling the place, petty issues such as jostling for positions of authority among the body, whether-or-not to pave the overflow parking, furniture arrangement, the new carpet's pattern, or the nursery's paint color, will always resolve themselves without hurt feelings or jealousy. Always ... as long as God's love is, in fact, filling the place.
That's the way we like to see ourselves, but what are outside observers supposed to think when the church responds to such petty issues with outright warfare? When brethren who have been fast friends for years quit speaking to one another, slander one another and nit-pick each other to death, do they expect outsiders to philosophically conclude that even though some church members act carnally, the body as a whole is filled with God's love?
Perhaps church combatants actually believe outsiders don't notice their pride-fueled escapades, or that their snide remarks have no effect outside church walls. Could they be that stupid? More likely, however, they never bother considering the far-reaching effects their little disputes' have on observers, and the community as a whole. After all, how can the Great Commission compare in importance to the greater issues of who leads this or that committee, or who teaches this or that class?
Jesus was outspoken about brethren who cause others to stumble: And He said to the disciples, It is impossible that the offenses should not come, but woe to him by whom they come! It is profitable for him if a millstone turned by an ass is put around his neck, and he be thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. (Luk 17:1,2 LITV) Obviously, Jesus knew His church would perpetrate such offenses, but He made no exception for the offenders when those of little faith are at risk.
Some say those carnal saints are heaven-bound, regardless the carnage they cause within and without the church. Christendom has argued that issue bitterly for hundreds of years, but what difference does it really make? Love is the first characteristic of God's Spiritual fruit. Back to First John 4: The one who does not love has not known God, because God is love ... We love Him because He first loved us. If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one not loving his brother whom he has seen, how is he able to love God whom he has not seen? (1Jn 4:8,19-20 LITV)
Of course, there's always the argument that goes: "I love her as a sister. I just can't stand the sight of her." Makes sense, does it not? Actually, not, in view of First Corinthians 13: Love has patience, is kind; love is not envious; love is not vain, is not puffed up; does not behave indecently, does not pursue its own things, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth. Love quietly covers all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (vs. 4-7 LITV) Any of those feisty church members who manage to rationalize away that passage already have the millstone of which Jesus spoke weighing down their necks.
After Pentecost, the baby church began turning the world upside down with their faithful love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control . Since then, teachers have conducted countless seminars, trying to discover the mystery of what ended that early course of change. But those "seminar-ians" needn't search further than the crowds of unbelievers they ignore while doing their churchly business.
And He said to them, The one having ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:9)