Who wouldn’t want to join East Germany for the freedom of West Germany?
In 1989 the Berlin wall fell and took down the Iron Curtain with it. Communism in Eastern Europe mostly evaporated. The two Germanys could become one.
After the wall tumbled, but before unification, a year later, many Germans preferred continued division. East Germans said the west was wonderful, but the East was their culture. West Germans hated the economic implications of caring for the easterners.
Unification brought prosperity to both Germanies. It turned out that they were better together than apart. Sure, there was pain as the East’s broken economy needed a crutch from the West. Today, Germany is the powerhouse of Europe with a standard of living greater than that of the United States.
So What About the Church?
We are divided in several ways and too often comfortable with the division.
I once knew a man who was an unaware racist.
This guy never met a man of color or a Jew that he didn’t like or accept as a brother. He offered friendship, financial help and love pretty freely. Yet, he’d use the n-word, repeat jokes that were offensive to people of color, Jews or other nationalities.
I know people who separate themselves from potential friends over finer points of doctrine – the gospel’s non-essentials. Of course, the worst of these usually host websites sowing discord into the family of Christ.
Finally, people like me freely dump money into missionary projects while avoiding awareness of the torture, mutilation, and death of hundreds of thousands of Christ-followers in lands of religious intolerance. Sometimes it hurts too much to know…
Something’s Gone Missing
I’ve lately been meditating in Ecclesiastes. After decades of teaching scripture, someone informed me that the Hebrew term we mostly translate as vanity means vapor or smoke. All is not vanity, but all is a vapor in light of God and eternity. That unlocked the door to feasting on scripture I’ve long neglected. Which brings me to this:
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV
Our nation is divided politically and racially. Movements like Black Lives Matter have co-opted our message of loving one another, wrapping it in Marxist rags. But black lives do matter despite politics. Many African-American pastors feel isolated as they address two streams. People live under the boot of racism on one side of the fence and the unaware racists on the other. One pastor friend told me how hurt he was when the white guys in his pastor’s “unity gathering” told him he was over-reacting to George Floyd’s death. We need each other, and this brother certainly requires the understanding of people he considers friends.
Doctrine that Divides
Because of groups like Exponential, there is a growing stream of unity in the United States. These are people who are willing to check their pet teachings at the door while gathering with the family members to further the Great Commission. They see disciplemaking and evangelism as more important than the issues and answers that so often set people apart from one another.
Ignorance of Church in the World
This cuts two ways. When we remain ignorant or ignore the family’s pain and poverty worldwide, we leave our brothers and sisters to suffer and die alone. We fail to learn the very lessons that could reverse the shrinkage and growing rejection we face in America.
Thankfully, an internet search reveals a growing number of organizations open windows of opportunity to ordinary people like you and me. I’m trying to match my donations to missions with gifts to groups providing legal or financial aid to persecuted saints. One group even buys children out of human slavery.
As to learning from the larger body of Christ, whenever I’ve helped launch churches, we encouraged them to pray for access to another nation via someone they would meet in the early days. God answers those prayers, and we soon discovered that learning is bilateral. We have much to give but also much to learn. In these dark days in the U.S., lessons from believers in places as far-flung as Nepal or Sri Lanka are becoming most useful.
Jesus told us he would be in our midst whenever even just two or three get together. I believe that statement includes Zoom calls, lobbying efforts, well digging and short-term missions. It certainly includes partnering with the church across town whose DNA is a tiny bit different than yours. We are stronger together. If one falls, the other can pick them up. This is important because we may not always enjoy the freedoms we have today.
A threefold cord is not quickly broken. But for the three strands to make a cord, they must find ways to intertwine. You may be busy, opinionated, ignorant or super successful, all of which can keep you separate from your brothers. Truth is, you may need them even more than they need you. Now is the time to tear down walls and build friendships.