On an almost bi-monthly basis, Oikos Church reserves a Sunday for teaching on “Bite & Devour”. The term comes from Galatians 5:15 – “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”
We believe strongly that churches are not healthy because they have not taken the time to clearly delineate among themselves the consequences of allowing issues to fester, of allowing divisiveness to go unchecked and of allowing bitterness to take strong root. Our sermons are a preventative – intended to lay out our course of action well in advance of any real issues boiling to the surface. It always looks and feels a bit reactionary to try to deactivate the bomb after it has already exploded!
Our folks are told on a regular basis that if they sow division that they will be confronted with the Scriptures by multiple sources. No one will feel bashful about using the Bible to remind them of their great obligation to keep the peace. There are no excuses and no self-righteous justifications that will allow someone to render void the peace among the saints won by Jesus Christ’s own blood.
Tom and I share these messages with the body because Paul spent so much time belaboring the holy obligation each saint has for preserving the unity of the saints. If so much of the epistles has been devoted to this task of waging peace, then elders that are called to the shepherding of the church should devote a similar share of their pulpit time.
We take the unity of the saints so seriously that new families coming to our church are fully expected to have dealt with the baggage that they carry from previous fellowships. If they have not sown harmony in these previous places, they will certainly not find harmony in our fellowship. Once again, there are no sufficient, self-righteous justifications that sanction waging war among saints. Even in the pursuit of truth, there is a certain dignity and love of peace that must be pursued by the saints regardless of whether they have strong disagreements.
If there were to be found strong disagreements, certainly they would have been rooted at Colosse where there was incredible diversity in the church, but in the words of Paul:
Col 3:11 Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.
Love and forgiveness are to be expected among the followers of Christ. Things that call for displays of love and forgiveness are also to be expected! When these challenges raise their head, we are called to mirror the love of God; not to run away and abandon our responsibility and God-given opportunity for sanctification.