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Hope Beyond Division

 

Hope Beyond Division
By Chuck Swindoll

(A shortened version)

Before Andrew Jackson became the seventh president of the United States, he served as a major general in the Tennessee militia. During the War of 1812 his troops reached an all-time low in morale. As a result they began arguing, bickering, and fighting among them­selves. It is reported that Old Hickory called them all together on one occasion when tensions were at their worst and said, "Gentle­men! Let's remember, the enemy is over there!"

His sobering reminder would be an appropriate word for the church today. In fact, I wonder if Christ sometimes looks down at us and says with a sigh, "Christians, your Enemy is over there! Stop your infighting! Pull for one another. Support one another. Believe in one another. Care for one another. Pray for one another. Love one another."

One of the most profound comments made regarding the early church came from the lips of a man named Aristides, sent by the Emperor Hadrian to spy out those strange creatures known as "Christians." Having seen them in action, Aristides returned with a mixed report. But his immortal words to the emperor have echoed down through history: "Behold! How they love one another."

How often do we hear such words today from those who don't know Christ but who have watched those of us who do? I'm inclined to think that it's much more likely that they say, "Behold! How they hurt one another!" Behold! How they judge one another!" ... "Behold! How they criticize one another!" Behold! How they fight with one another!"

This is the generation that has given new meaning to the shame­ful practice of brother-bashing and sister-smashing. You would think we were enemies rather than members of the same family. Some­thing is wrong with this picture.

The mark of the Christian should be a spirit of unity and genuine love for others, but the church today rarely demonstrates those qualities. We are looked on by the world as self-seeking and factious rather than loving and unified. You question that? Just step into a Christian bookstore and scan the shelves. What impression do you get? Do the books reflect love and unity within the body of Christ? Or do they reflect polarization, criticism, and judgment of one an­other? Better yet, sit back and observe what's going on in your own church. Are you overwhelmed with the love and unity that exudes from your local body of believers? Or are you saddened and disap­pointed by the political power plays and petty disagreements that block our ability to get along with one another?

Unity: An Almost Forgotten Virtue

"I do not ask in behalf of these alone [the disciples], but for those also who believe in Me through their word [that's you and me]; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that You did send Me. And the glory which You have given Me I have given to them; that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, that the world may know that You did send Me, and did love them, even as You did love Me. (John 17:20—23, italics mine)

Look at that! Believe it or not, He was praying for us during those final hours. He was praying that you and I might make an impact on the world because of our unity with Him and with each other.

If there is anything that would keep me away from Christ these days, if I were lost, it would be the attitude Christians have toward one another. That would do it. While there is much wonderful fel­lowship in the church where the fire of friendship warms and affirms us, there are still too many places where for the life of me I don't know how people stay in ministry. The conditions in which some men and women labor are occasionally beyond belief.

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