Wednesday, April 2, 2003

"And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one."
(John 17.11 NRSV)

Radio pastor Chuck Swindoll tells about a disconcerting experience he had years ago at a banquet attended by almost two thousand Christian people. The spirit was electric with excitement, reports Swindoll. They had enjoyed a delicious meal and some superb music. They were experiencing a rare blend of unity and love...It was wonderful!

Suddenly, the meeting was disrupted by a young man who pushed his way into the room. He began to shout his disapproval and proclaim some particular conviction which he held. He was asked to leave as people stared in disbelief. He refused, continuing his diatribe at top volume. His face was stern and his voice shrill. Finally, after he was forcibly removed from the meeting, they were able to continue and complete the evening, though the spirit of unity and mutual enthusiasm was never fully recovered. Swindoll found out later that this same man--a fellow believer--regularly does such things. He believes it is his calling. He is convinced he has "the gift of rebuking" (try to find that in scripture), so he travels around disrupting religious meetings.

Now I know why disagreeable people sometimes find their way into the body of Christ. They have the gift of rebuking--a new gift I was not familiar with. All along, I thought they were just grouches. Fortunately such folks are a tiny minority. Most of us would agree with missionary/evangelist E. Stanley Jones who never tired of saying: "Everyone who belongs to Christ belongs to everyone who belongs to Christ." We are a family. We belong to one another. The quality of our unity determines to a great extent the power of our witness. Jesus prayed in his prayer for the church recorded in John 17 that his followers would all be one.

Dear God, guide me as I build unity in your community of faith. Amen.

Ron Newhouse

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