Live in Harmony with One Another
Our daughter owns a cabin in the mountains of North Carolina. Recently, her home was invaded. By bats. A colony of bats squeezed their way into her wall and set up shop. Rachel called Terminix and got a quote for removing them. $1400. And they couldn’t do it until September. So, my industrious daughter took matters into her own hands. She climbed a 30-foot ladder and sprayed foam into all the cracks. She installed a one-way “bat door”…they could get out…but couldn’t get back in. Kind of a reverse Hotel California. And then she waited.
When the bats couldn’t get back inside the wall, they started hanging out, literally, on her porch. Pooping up a storm. And Rachel was fed up. So, she went to Walmart, bought a pellet gun, dressed in camo, put on a red-light headlamp, and lay in wait that night. I got a text the next morning. “Vengeance is sweet. Body count is now 6.” Over her three-night stakeout, she offed 9 bats…before their surviving friends decided to go poop on someone else’s porch.
I know…some of you are horrified. “They’re cute; they kill bugs.” Yeah, whatever. Talk to me after the inside of your walls have been invaded by guano-producing, rabies-carrying, vampires-in-waiting. And since I shot an aggressive raccoon off the top of our roof years ago, I know exactly where Rachel gets her “protect-your-castle-at-all-costs” instinct. I don’t blame her for not wanting to co-exist with these creatures. Do you?
Now that might work with furry, winged pests in a cabin in the Appalachians. What about the pests around you? Your church pests? What about those people you don’t like, don’t agree with, don’t vote like…and really don’t want to hang out with? One solution is to chase them away. Churches in the United States are becoming increasingly monolithic. They look the same, believe the same, vote the same.
These last two years have accelerated that trend in Gig Harbor. We have long-standing members who left us for other churches. Because of masks. Because of vaccines. My sermons were too political. My sermons weren’t political enough. I was too conservative. I was too liberal. (I’m not making this up…I heard every one of these excuses for why people changed churches.)
Is that the solution? If you have people in your church who think differently, vote differently, behave differently…is the only solution to abandon ship and find another church where everyone is more like you? Well…Paul had strong opinions about that.
We’ve been exploring some of the 59 “one-anothers” in the New Testament; how we ought to live together as believers in the Body of Christ. This morning’s may be the most difficult one of all: “Live in harmony with one another”…nowhere stated as clearly as in Romans 12. And in that same place, Paul offers tips on how we can pull this off…in a very divided world. Let’s learn how to “live in harmony with one another.”
“3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. …15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:3-18
Has our country ever been more divided in our lifetimes? I was talking with Doug Burleigh, one of our mission partners, last week. Doug has ministered to world leaders in Washington DC for decades, and told me, “I’ve never seen our nation so divided.” I said, “OK…I know we say that. I’ve said that. But, really…is it true? In your seventy-plus years, you’ve never seen this kind of division?” “Nope…never. It’s the worst it’s ever been,” he said.
And that seeps into the church, doesn’t it? To the point where we tippy-toe around delicate topics, we ought to engage. So…is that the best we can do? It’s not like the first-century church was homogeneous. They had Roman citizens, slaves, Jews, gentiles, women…the early Christian church was as diverse a group as you could imagine. Still, Paul said, “You will live in harmony with one another.” So…how? How do Republicans and Democrats, Trumpers and never-Trumpers, pro-choicers and pro-lifers, BLMers and Thin Blue Liners…how in the world do we live in harmony? Is it even possible? Well…Paul offers a few tips on how we might pull this off…in the power of the Holy Spirit: Be Curious…Be Compassionate…Be Courteous…Be Yourself.