What is best in life?
By Lee Hemen
March 22, 2009
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)
Conan the Barbarian answered the question, “What is best in life?” with these pithy words of barbaric wisdom: “To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women.” This kind of sounds like those who leave churches because they do not get their own way doesn’t it? Well, maybe not quite that bad but for some folks they never quite get over a perceived hurt that they may have caused themselves in the first place. Here’s what I mean…
Recently, a pastor friend related to me that he had just met an old church member at a local hardware store and the ex-post-facto-member had related to him, “I was really angry with you for years, but now I am over it.” My friend kind of smiled and confessed to me, “Lee, I honestly did not remember why he left the church in the first place.” He then told me that he had to ask several other members of the church if they remembered why and discovered that it was over how the church wanted accountability for money they spent on ministry. This “offended” individual felt like the church did not trust them and was placing unfair personal demands on them. However, this accountability was and still is required of all ministry monies spent by this church’s ministries and leaders. (A good policy that my church practices as well.)
Can you imagine someone who claims to know Christ getting so angry over something like this and then holding onto it for literally years? Wow! What a colossal waste of personal emotion, time, and spiritual energy. As we spoke that pastor did relate how the church had tried to restore this person several times, but to no avail. They did not want to practice living a life “worthy of the calling” they had received. Instead they decided to get mad and stay mad for years. It only affected and infected them and not the church or the pastor.
This chapter of Ephesians deals with how the church is to “be completely humble and gentle… patient, bearing one another in love.” To, in fact, strive and “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” in the church body. This has not changed for us today as a church or as church members!
Paul writes that there is accountability and leadership and that it is God who appoints folks to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers, and pastors “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” (v. 12) Paul writes that the reason is because “From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:16) Christians, church members, “must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.” (v. 17) Church members are in fact “to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Vv. 23-24) And “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry!” Why? So as to “not give the devil a foothold.” (Vv. 26-27) This is exactly what the wayward church member had done! They had allow Satan a “foothold” in their life through their anger and they remained mad until they got “over it.” But did they “get over it”?
My question would be: “Are they truly over it or are they still angry and trying to cover their anger up?” I have discovered that you cannot simply get over anger when you are spiritually in sin because of it. You have to take care of the root problem, bitterness. Because until we do, we “grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (v. 30) The cure Paul says is for complete restoration. The angered church member, who claims Christ, must “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (Vv. 31-32) There is the key! Get rid of it through Jesus. Forgive those whom you think have offended you, whether you feel justified or not, “just as Christ God forgave you!”
We have forgotten, as I have said before, church is not about you. It is about doing the work of the Lord as His body until He returns. When you are needlessly angered at the church, its leadership, or it people, you are in fact angry at the body of Christ. What is the best thing in life for you to do then? How about doing as Paul suggests.
Church, it is one of the best things in life, get right with the Lord’s body or suffer the consequences for being angered at the Lord.
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