At the risk of being judged paranoid, may I suggest that some of you out there dont like me. And to tell myself the absolute truth, Im not so crazy about some of you. We do, of course love each other in two ways: we hold Christ as our saviour, and we share in human frailty. We are all here on the earth together, for better or worse. We face, in addition to joy and happiness, sorrow, tragedy, despair, sickness and the final prospect of death. But unfortunately, these loves are vague, smothered by the most immediate feelings of the moment. Examples are, (so as not to antagonize you, Ill be the butt of the examples): You dont like me because of:
what I said to you
..... I'm sanctimonious
what I didn't say to you
what I wear
what I have
what I don't have
over confident; educated
kind of work I do
fanatical or not fanatical enough
The point is we find a hundred ways to dislike each other, or at least excuses for avoiding one another.
If what I say is true you dont like me and I dont like you, then it is shameful and tragic, for a number of reasons. We fail to recognize the human condition and how imperfect it is. We use external characteristics by which to judge others, and often we are misled. For example, one Christian that Ive known for 10 years, I never spoke to; I thought he was aloof, when in fact he was shy. A common interest was discovered when we were forced to talk to each other. Now hes a fine fellow. Hard to persuade me hes not a fine upstanding man. The great tragedy in all this is an unwillingness to love on a day to day basis. And this prevents us from doing the great work we might accomplish if we were truly a community of Christians, having common ideals and goals that override our petty dislikes.
What causes this lack of communal love and interest? I think, perhaps, a weakness in our faith. We dont talk much anymore, and we hang on to the grace of God by our fingernails. We dont read as much, we dont sit on the porch and think enough, getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Our faith has become so weak we are unwilling to believe that we have the power to influence for good by word or deed. Opportunities come. I see them, but they slip by. I hesitate and the moment is lost. Someone says, "What do you think of the state of the world?" What an opening, what an opportunity. But how often do we confine our remarks to events of the day? The opportunities to influence for good by example are numerous. Are you kinder? More understanding? More helpful? For me, the only thing I think anybody noticed was that I didnt cuss. A flip answer. And I stray from my subject.
The lack of community unity and love is caused primarily, I believe, by lack of faith, and this is stultifying. Compared to the early church when multitudes came together, our failure is disgraceful. We need to learn from the 1st century Christians (Acts 2. 40 - 47) We are fond of pointing out that this experiment in communism or socialism didnt last. It broke down. But why should this surprise us? Nothing humans do lasts. We ought to pay more attention to what they accomplished: "And the Lord added daily to the church such as should be saved".
And to this day groups of Christians work toward the relief of human suffering.
But these efforts pale in comparison to the great gift each of us has to impart the good news of the kingdom of God and the saving name of Jesus Christ. Maybe the 1st century practice (communism) wouldnt work for us, but we can have in common, to a greater degree than we now possess, a real feeling of community made up of the children of God, in a teaching unmixed with humanism, social Darwinism, Hellenism, existentialism, the quest for the historical Jesus, and all the permutations and combinations played upon the theme of Christianity, that adulterate it and weaken it. If we can be like Peter, always ready to give an answer to every man that asks for a reason of the hope that is in him with meekness and fear, maybe we could keep the spark alive for maybe 5 years, before we lapse back into our Laodicean ways, where our ears become dull of hearing and we are neither hot nor cold.
A preeminent faith makes it less likely for this to happen because beyond the bonds of Christ that bind us together, we come to recognize more fully that we are inextricably bound together by our common humanity. The man does not become brother to man by standing up and protesting abuses of his rights, or by pursuing for himself a higher social standing, but by recognizing that we need each other because were weak. With a strong faith in God and His promises we are able to overlook faults in others, real or imagined., and not be ashamed of the gospel, for as Paul said, it is the power of God unto salvation. . Are we like the Laodiceans lukewarm? Or like the church at Sardis, who appear to be alive, but are spiritually dead? Do you want to catch the spark?