One of the problems of the church is an ego problem.
Satan knows that the Church under Christ is the greatest spiritual agent for the greatest spiritual transformation of all times.
That’s why his strategy was a division that will disrupt the Church.
So in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, Paul told the church not to be divided and to do away with sectarian interests.
Rather, he called them to be rooted in Jesus and anchored in His calling, to come redemptively under the power of God to fulfil the purpose of God for the glory of God.
3 essential truths about Church
I want to talk to you about three fundamental and essential truths about the Church.
The first is that we belong together, the second is that we need one another, and the third is that we must care for one another.
Let’s examine this one at a time, from 1 Corinthians 12:11-26.
1. We belong together
In 1 Corinthians 12:14-16, Paul uses an illustration to emphasise that we belong together. Not because you are good or your credits with God.
You belong because of the work of Jesus Christ in you.
You are baptised by one Spirit into the name of Jesus because of what He has done.
It is in our redemption that we have our identity, our oneness and our belonging.
What does the word “redemption” exactly mean?
There are three Greek words for redemption: agorazo, exagorazo and lutroo.
Agorazo comes from the root word gora, which means “market”, while ex means “out”.
So it has the idea of a slave market, where the master comes and he buys a slave out of the slave market (exagorazo).
And then when he bought the slave out, he loved the slave and decided to “set him free” (lutroo).
In other words, the slave is a free man. That’s the picture of redemption!
We are bought from the slave market of sin, delivered from our sin and set free in Jesus.
When we understand this richness of this redemption — complete, eternal, free and yet costly unto Him — why can’t we be united in that love of God?
Why can’t we be united in the redemption that is in Jesus? Why can’t we be united together to tell the world that Jesus saves?
Because our ego gets in the way, and we get offended easily.
But our focus should be on Christ, and not on our ego!
There’s a simple marriage triangle that lasts through the corridors of time.
The triangle is very simple — husband and wife at each corner of the base, and God at the apex.
How do they grow closer together? They focus on God.
If you focus on one another you will fight. But if you focus on God, you will come together.
2. We need one another
Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12:14-16 again.
Paul uses very precise comparisons — the foot with the hand, and the ears with the eyes.
Clearly, our eyes and our hands are of greater utility compared to our ears and feet. But here is what Paul is saying: Don’t compare.
For if we compare, we trip up either way. We become proud when we compare with someone “lesser” than us, or we become discouraged when we compare with someone “greater” than us.
Don’t compare, because you are needed in the body.
Next, in 1 Corinthians 12:21, Paul demonstrates another principle by comparing two “superior” faculties (the eye and the hand): Don’t compete.
In our key work of preaching the gospel to the world, we cannot do it alone! We need churches, big or small. We need Christians, young or old. We need everyone to come together in unity.
And Paul says this remarkable thing: The seemingly weaker are indispensable (1 Corinthians 12:22). They are needed!
The kingdom of God is not built by super-apostles or celebrities. The kingdom of God is built by the people of God who move in unity with Him.
3. We must care for one another
Lastly, in 1 Corinthians 12:25, Paul exhorts that there might be no division of the body.
We have to learn to care for one another so that we leave no one behind, whether in suffering or rejoicing (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Don’t be a church where one suffers and nobody cares, or when one is honoured then everybody throws stones.
Let us cultivate an honour culture, where we give honour when honour is due. It pleases the Lord!
Ending conflicts: ENAF is enough
Finally, I want to share with you a simple way to resolve our conflicts. Here’s an acronym: ENAF.
Manage your Expectations
Firstly, the reason why conflicts come about is because there is a gap between our expectations and reality.
The wider the gap between expectations and reality, the greater the conflict.
So we all need to manage our expectations.
Manage your Needs
This is true for relationships between a husband and a wife, between parents and children, between church members, or church leaders and members, etc.
We all have needs, but we need to learn to manage them.
There was a man who dreamt that he went to heaven. It was a beautiful place, and they were having lavish feasts.
In his dream, the heavenly dining hall had many big tables, with many people sitting around each table.
Sitting down at one of the tables, he saw a long chopsticks to take the food at the centre of this large table.
“How do I feed myself with such long chopsticks?” the man wondered.
Then he learnt in his dream: “Ah, in heaven, you don’t feed yourself — you take the chopsticks and you feed each other!”
The moral of the story is that we must care for one another above our own needs.
Manage your Anger
Ephesians 4:26 says don’t let the sun set on your anger. Keep a short account of your anger.
Often our anger is because we feel helpless.
When we feel we have no control, that’s when all these toxic emotions come.
We need to manage our anger by asking for help from the Lord, not from our own resources.
Lay it before the Lord, and look to Him for help.
Manage your Focus
The last tip is to manage your focus.
When we focus on God and not the circumstances, we are united together.
When we focus on God, our ego doesn’t come first.
When we focus on God, we accomplish the purposes of God.
I want to close with a story in the Bible about this incredible young man, a prince.
His name is Jonathan, and there was a day when his focus was not on his circumstances, his father, the king or the kingdom.
His focus was on God, and the story is told to us in 1 Samuel 14.
Saul had only 600 men following him, while the Philistines were like the multitudes on the seashore. And only Saul and Jonathan had swords.
But young prince Jonathan said: “Come let us go to the garrison of the uncircumcised. It may be that the Lord will work for us, for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving by many or by few.”
And the armour-bearer said to him: “Do all that is in your heart; do as you wish. Behold, I am with your heart and soul.” (1 Samuel 14:6-7 ESV)
There was a unity for the cause and the call of God in their lives.
They were not intimidated by the circumstances or by the enemy.
The story goes on to say that Jonathan agreed with his armour-bearer on a sign.
If they showed themselves and the Philistines responded “stay there, we will come to you”, they would stand their ground and see what God would do.
However, if the Philistines said “come up to us”, they would charge for God had given the enemy into their hands.
Eventually, God gave them the second sign, and Jonathan and his armour-bearer charged forward and was victorious.
Their focus was not on their circumstances, the poverty of their resources or the enormous task before them. Their focus was on God!
What always unites us is God
If we are willing as a people of God to focus upon Him, we will stand united as a tapestry and testimony of faith for generations.
All I want to say to you about unity in the generations and about the tapestry of faith coming together is this: God is the centre of gravity in our lives.
Focus on Him.
The redemption that is in Christ, the empowering of the Holy Spirit, the worship of God Almighty — that is what unites us from one generation to the next.
The following article is adapted from a message by Reverend Edmund Chan on Day 3 of Paya Lebar Methodist Church‘s (PLMC) Conference 2022. Titled Tapestry – Generations Unbroken, the overall theme of the conference was uniting the Church across generations towards a single purpose.
You can catch up on the rest of our coverage below!
- Which of these 3 truths do you need to keep in mind or work on?
- What are some fault lines you see within your church? How can you apply the principles of ENAF and be the solution?
- How can you intentionally focus on the cause and call of God in your life?