I realize that the old song “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” is referring to the loss of loved ones, especially in the body of Christ and ultimately seeing them one day in heaven. And I also realize that the song is most specifically referring to this loss from the perspective of death.
But what about the unity in the body of Christ among the living on Earth?
Are we truly unified like a circle with no beginning and no end?
Do we find ourselves united behind Christ?
And what happens when that circle of unity is broken? Because let’s face it church…people break the circle of unity in the Body of Christ pretty much every day and it never gets easier.
I could probably write a book that simply lists off the things that break unity amongst the Church, but ultimately they all find their foundation in one word – OFFENSE!
I know, I know….you’re not offended.
I know, I know….you’ve got thick skin.
But let me ask you this…is that really true, or are you just allowing your pride to cloud your self evaluation of your heart?
Right now the small groups at my church are going through a book called “The Bait of Satan” by John Bevere. And I’ll tell you…if you haven’t read it, you need to read it…because if you think you aren’t someone who is “offended”, I think you’re going to find that he pretty much covers everyone in the body of Christ in this book, and you’ll find yourself staring back at you in this mirror.
But seriously folks….how do we respond when the circle is broken?
Do we simply run to the next church and take our offense with us?
If so, you’re just putting a brick in the wall of your offense and taking a spirit of anger and offense to another congregation where….guess what….you’ll get offended again and will just add another brick of offense to your wall.
Do you stay where you are at and start whispering in the ears of other members of the congregation trying to drum up support for your offense and drive a wedge between other folks and whoever you are offended at?
If so, you’re no better than Absalom when it came to his father David. And if you’re not sure if this is you…might I recommend another book…a really short book….but a very impactful book….“A Tale of Three Kings” by Gene Edwards.
Do you stay and just harbor the offense, allowing it to simmer and stew, waiting for another offense to pile on top before you make a public spectacle of yourself?
If you do, you aren’t doing yourself, or your church any favors. You’re just becoming a volcano building up to a huge explosion and yes….as you explode you will leave a path of destruction behind you.
Do you leave the church but try to find a way to take as many of the people with you?
Did I mention a book called “A Tale of Three Kings” and some guy named Absalom? Yeah….this might just be you.
I’m sure there are many other responses to offense that occur. And unless this is addressed biblically, then it is all wrong and will only end in the circle becoming broken and hearts shattered.
The Apostle Paul had to address this even at the infancy of the Church. In 1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul wrote these words:
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose.
You see, it’s not a matter of “if” an offense will come….it’s a matter of when and how you will choose to respond to it. And I think the Bible gives us a clear directive that we need to remain unified in our thought and in our purpose. I actually preached on this a few months back, and here are the 5 ways I believe the bible teaches for restoring unity in the body of Christ:
- Be united in purpose – Things will not always go the way we expect them to, but rather then getting offended when it doesn’t, we need to take a gut check and see if what is being done advances our purpose as a Church. Our purpose was mandated in Matthew 28 when Jesus told us to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” If what is being done does advance our purpose….why are you offended?
- Be united in the same spirit – Not only do we need to be united via the Holy Spirit, but also in the same spirit…and that “spirit” is the spirit of love. Real love for one another doesn’t harbor offense. It seeks to right wrongs. It seeks to make amends. It seeks to restore. So, if you are offended….take another gut check…are you really being loving by allowing this to stew or by trying to drag others in to it? Based on scripture alone…my response is…no, you’re not being loving.
- Be united in the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ – If you are struggling to find common ground with someone who you are offended with…take a step back and realize that you both have common ground through the faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ. He died for you just as He did for the one you are offended at. Perhaps recognizing this will help you recollect your thoughts and seek amends.
- Be united in becoming more like Christ – Look at your actions….are they Christ like? If not, search God’s word for how to be more Christ like in this area. It won’t take long. All you have to do is look at Jesus’ response to those crucifying him as he hung on the cross. Jesus could’ve been offended at these people. He had every right to. He was wrongly accused and punished. But He knew his purpose, and He knew that these people were acting in deception. Just a thought.
- Be united in your uniquenesses – I know this may come as a surprise to some…but, we aren’t all the same. But just because we aren’t all the same doesn’t mean that our differences are all wrong. Examine the scriptures. If these differences are not direct violations of God’s word….why are you offended? Why are you causing a ruckus? Might be time to take a step back from the situation and appreciate our differences and uniquenesses.
If you are struggling with offense….if you are seeing the circle becoming broken…let me leave you with the prayer that our Lord, Jesus Christ, prayed for us:
John 17:20-23 (NLT)
“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.”