PEACE AND UNITY

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

OUR THEME FOR 2011
(Part 4)

PEACE AND UNITY

November 10, 2010

We need the strength of God to live our lives according to His will and to do our work according to His plan. Now we have been called as a community, to be one body that will be His effective instrument. The strength of CFC-FFL will depend, among other things, on peace and unity in the body. Our enemy seeks to destroy us and our work, and one effective way he does that is to foment strife and conflict, so that we will not be at peace with one another.

The enemy is helped by our own sinful flesh, by our own weaknesses and failures in fraternal relationships. Indeed, the sad reality in Christian communities is that „there are also many rebels, idle talkers and deceivers‰ (Ti 1:10) right there among us.

Now peace and unity will depend not on our liking each other, or on having agreeable leaders, or having in place the processes with which to resolve conflicts, though all these would certainly be helpful. But peace and unity depend on and are founded on Christ. Indeed, our strength is dependent on Christ and the rightness of our focus on him.

So how are we to work at peace and unity? Or, since our strength is in Christ, what does the Lord tell us about how we are to conduct our relationships in community? Today‚s reading from Paul‚s letter to Titus (Ti 3:1-7) instructs us.

As we basically look to the strength that comes from a relationship with Christ, we also look at two other relationships, one looking up and one looking across.

One relationship is to authority in the body. It is submission to those leaders who have been placed over us. We live in community where God has given us servant leaders, who are tasked with the care of the flock and the oversight of our mission. Every person thinks differently, and would have different priorities, preferences, personalities, etc. So community cannot be peaceful and united if each person just does what he thinks best. It is the place of the governing authority in the body to decide how the community is to move forward in pursuing its life and mission.

Thus, the posture of each member of the body is this: „to be under the control of …. authorities, to be obedient, to be open to every good enterprise.‰ (Ti 3:1). Members voluntarily and willingly submit themselves to authority, for the greater good. They are open to whatever activities, actions and events that the governing authority might propose, for the furtherance of the community‚s mission.

Now this is not blind obedience. We are not a cult. It is active submission, where there indeed is the basic posture of obedience to authority, but where one can interpose questions, ask for clarification, have a good discussion, suggest alternatives, and even ask for matters to be elevated to a higher authority. We are all co-equal participants in the life and mission of the body, and so our inputs and ideas are welcome. But at the end of the day, one needs to decide. That is where submission to authority becomes important.

The other relationship is to our brethren. This means everyone, leader and member alike. This is Paul‚s instruction: „They are to slander no one, to be peaceable, considerate, exercising all graciousness toward everyone.‰ (Ti 3:2).

How do we live in peace with each other?
We slander no one. We do not speak ill of another, even if there is actually something wrong with that person. If we need to address a wrong, we go directly to the person and give fraternal correction, or else we go to a leader who has pastoral oversight over the person.
We are peaceable. We do not fight with others. We are not antagonistic towards anyone. We do not nurse resentments or grudges. We are patient and tolerant and forgiving. We „avoid foolish arguments, genealogies, rivalries, and quarrels about the law (being legalistic)‰ (Ti 3:9).
We are considerate. We are kind and solicitous, always on the lookout as to how we can serve others. We are mindful of the struggles and pain of our brethren, ever ready to minister to them. We recognize the weaknesses of others but do not judge or condemn them. We want our brethren to move forward in their life in Christ, and we help in whatever way we can.
We are gracious to everyone. We are nice and pleasant in our relationships. We are to be channels of God‚s grace for others. We are „eager to do what is good‰ (Ti 2:14), so that others may benefit. We „devote (ourselves) to good works to supply urgent needs‰ (Ti 3:14). We exude joy.
What helps us to do the above, which is quite difficult, is to realize who we were before Christ, and why we are who we are now.

Before (and perhaps even now), „we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, deluded, slaves to various desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful ourselves and hating one another.‰ (Ti 3:3). Wow! We indeed were lost. What a terrible state of life we were in. „But when the kindness and generous love of God our savior appeared, he saved us through the bath of rebirth and renewal by the holy Spirit.‰ (Ti 3:4,5b). God, out of His great love for us, plucked us out of darkness and renewed us in His Spirit. And God did this „not because of any righteous deeds we had done but because of his mercy‰ (Ti 3:5a). It was the free gift of God, undeserved by us, but given nonetheless.

If this is what God has done for us, we must respond accordingly. God has now given us the opportunity to share that great love with many others. This is the work of our community. We must be passionate in that work. And we must recognize that our life and work will be strong only if we are at peace and are united.

So in deference to God who restored and renewed us, we submit to the leaders He has placed over us, as these servant leaders represent Him. And in recognition of our own sorry state apart from the grace of God, with all humility and a recognition of our own unworthiness, we relate to all our brethren with graciousness and fraternal love.

If we do these, then we will have peace and unity in our community. Then we will be able to do our mission in the power of the Holy Spirit. Then we can rightly say that our God is now our strength!

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