30 Jan 2014 by Jason Law CM –
New International Version (NIV)
9 Lord, confuse the wicked, confound their words,
for I see violence and strife in the city.
10 Day and night they prowl about on its walls;
malice and abuse are within it.
11 Destructive forces are at work in the city;
threats and lies never leave its streets.
25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.
1 Peter 5:8
New International Version (NIV)
8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
In these last days, there is great need for Christians to stand united, not merely as individual churches but as The Church. The Bible is replete with warnings about divisions within the Body of Christ. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 tells us that in the Last Days, the world will be full of people who are lovers of themselves, boastful and proud, abusive, unfilial, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, treacherous, etc.. all of which are strong statements against Godlessness but also against the spirit of division. The whole latter part of Ephesians exhorts us to be united in the Body. It is interesting that 1 Peter 5:8 describes the devil by using the analogy of a prowling lion looking for its prey.
Have you ever seen how a lion hunts its prey? Lions don’t work alone, they are coordinated. And they don’t aim for the strongest members of a herd, but the stragglers and the infirm or vulnerable in age, separating them from the main herd. Whether we see the hands of God in everything, there is an Incarnational Tradition within Christianity that does, and there is much merit in it.
The Incarnational Tradition
Richard Foster says in his book, ‘Streams of Living Water’, that there are as many as seven strengths of the Incarnational Tradition. It underscores the fact that God is truly among us in the warp and woof of our very earthy existence; it roots us in everyday life; it gives meaning to our work; it is a valuable corrective to Gnosticism; it constantly beckons us Godward; it makes our body a portable sanctuary through which we are daily experiencing the presence of God; and it deepens our ecological sensitivities. The thing to take note in his book is that there are in total 6 Christian Traditions (Contemplative, Holiness, Charismatic, Social Justice, Evangelical, Incarnational), and they’re all equally valuable to the Body of Christ. There is much to learn about why God employed Peter to articulate what he did in 1 Peter 5:8.
The first thing to take note about the way lions hunt is that they do it in packs, and they always aim to separate vulnerable members of a herd. The fable goes that the devil once assigned one demon each to harass one person in the world. Not being omnipresent like God, however, the devil soon tired of this, and then he hit upon an idea; influence the systems of the world and with one blow assault a multitude of people. This may be a fable, but it describes very much the spiritual battle Christians face today. There are seven domains in the battle for Godly values, each of which is crucial (Arts, Business, Education, Family, Government, Media, Religion), and we cannot afford to fight it alone.
Vulnerable Members of the Church
The other thing to note about lions is that they always target the stragglers and the vulnerable. This is why it is sometimes so disheartening to find church leaders arguing over the trivial stuff like hair (‘Can a Christian dye their hair?’ “Is it ok for Christian men to keep long hair?’); entertainment like music (‘Can a Christian listen to Christian Rock?’) and books (‘Can a Christian read fantasy, science fiction, or secular books for that matter?’) as well as doctrinal differences (‘Are Catholics real Christians?’ and vice versa).
Christians are sometimes so good at admiring or taking care of a leaf that they forget about the larger picture; that there are other leaves in the tree. Sometimes a leaf that may look good may be from a tree that is dying, and sometimes a leaf that is dying may be from natural causes from a tree that is otherwise healthy. In the analogy of the lion’s prey, the stragglers are often the ones that focus so much on the grass that it is oblivious of its surroundings.
Meanwhile, young believers who find the churches increasingly irrelevant and petty are drifting away in huge numbers. In a session I attended once by Bill Wilson, the president and founder of Metro Ministries International, he said that there is something wrong with the Church if young people are drifting away to rock bands because they’re doing a better job at articulating the concerns of these youngsters. Every young believer drifting away from the Church is a strike one for the devil and against God.
What The Church Is Called For
First of all, while the word ‘church’ in the singular expression means simply a building where the faithful gather every Sunday to worship God, it also has a more encompassing term that means the Body of Christ ie all followers of Christ. In a worship session by Pr Chris Kam of DUMC, he shared that
The word ‘ekklesia’ meaning ‘church’ refers to the gatherings/assembly of disciples of Jesus Christ. Although we can worship God at home, we must still come together as a church. During the apostles’time, the people also had to be reminded to continue meeting together and to encourage one another.
The apostle Paul says that the Holy Spirit dwells in us individually and corporately. We miss the corporate blessing if we are not present together. In this verse, Paul is not referring to the individual ‘me’ but instead refers to the corporate body.
Besides the obvious, the Church is called to come together, and to me it means every believer who is Christ-centered rather than Law- or Creed-centered. We are many but one in the Body of Christ. The Catholics may have lessons to learn from the way Charismatic Protestants free themselves up in their relationship with God and for worship. The Protestants may have lessons to learn from the Catholics about the Contemplative Life and Social Justice as seen in the testimonies of people like Mother Teresa and Oscar Romero. We can, and should, be united, sharing and learning from one another.
1 Corinthians 12:13-14
For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body (singular) —whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
Build Deep, Build Strong, Build Wide
As followers of Christ, we need to build deep, build strong, and build wide. Building Deep means we don’t take our faith for granted and that we dig deep into our relationships with God and other people. We need to increase the level of our devotional life and our daily walk with Him. It also means that we bear the weaknesses of each other, and build each other up. Genuine relationships of real strength take time and effort to build.
Building Strong means that we become intentional in our discipling. We need to cultivate a culture of accountability, while equipping spiritual children to grow into their own ministries, even while we continue our own servanthood to the Lord. Every follower of Christ must have a foundation strong enough to withstand the pressures from the world.
Building Wide means that our relationships must have influence to transform communities and change peoples’ lives. Bless others with acts of kindness, share the Good News of Christ’s love when God brings opportunities, and pray and intercede for others, including for peace and harmony in the country.
We need to recognize that our real enemy is not of flesh and blood. Ephesians 6:12 says that for our battle is not in the physical realm, it is in the spiritual one, and that it is not against bodily foes but against the principalities and the ruler of the air. But in 1 Chronicles 29:11-12, God also assures us that He is in control of everything. In His hands are might and power, and both riches and honor as well as strength comes through Him. We need to be united not merely as individual churches, but rather, as The Church, dedicated to God and Christ.
For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.
1 Chronicles 29:11-12 ESV
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all.
References for pictures