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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Christian Unity: a matter of the heart!

I have to believe that the overall unity of the body of Christ has to be an ongoing priority of our Lord’s heart. As a husband and father it is one of my pleasures to come home and see my family living life and working together in common love and respect for each other. It is a beautiful and special thing to behold but the flip side is not. When the kids are disrespecting Mom and there is bickering and fighting among the siblings and Mom has had enough, well you get the picture. It doesn’t take any theology to know that our heavenly father desires the same of His family and bride. I think it must be human nature to complicate or over think things, so my desire in this post is to try to simplify how we can easily begin to take first steps to being a part of the change.

Setting the stage of Jesus’ time on earth, we find Him walking the earth and communing with a people governed by a religious body that had so complicated the Word of God that it had lost its original intent and purpose. God’s chosen people had begun to focus more on a person’s outward appearance. So we find in the record Jesus spending a significant amount of time, on Earth, bringing awareness to purity of the heart versus outward appearance.

Now this was not to say that outward actions were not a major part of his ministry teaching; however, the difference was the motivation was behind it. In the famous scripture passage 1 Corinthians 13, we see over and over that unless our actions are based out of love, then it is nothing.

Jesus confronts this outward piety head on by healing on the Sabbath and speaking and dining with tax collectors and Samaritans. His teachings began to refocus people to the heart and spirit of the law, instead of the letter of the law.

They had forgotten that even in the writings of the Old Testament, the people were challenged to think more like God – to think with their hearts.

“The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." - 1 Sam 16:7(b)

When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus simplified all of the Law down to one sentence, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with your entire mind: and Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31)

Imagine the weight of this legalist world falling from their shoulders as the revelation of this began to sink in. No longer was it a huge list of “dos and don’ts” but it was instead about a changed heart and a life lived motivated from Godly love. When you begin to realize that God’s desire for His people is to simply love Him completely, well, it literally changes everything! It is when we really begin to seek God first and to love Him, with everything in us, that things naturally begin to change for us.

Now lest you are tempted with the thought of throwing out the Bible and singing “All you need is love”, remember it is the Bible that shows us what love is. If you’re like me, you might be confused with what true love looks like, especially when our culture has perverted its meaning so completely. The Holy Bible, written on the foundations of love, is the teaching that begins to renew our mind on how we are to think, respond and act in our world.

Why does Jesus’ response to this question, “What is the greatest commandment?” end with the statement, “…and love your neighbor as yourself”? I believe it is because it is the natural byproduct of wholeheartedly loving God with all your heart. When the heart of God begins to permeate our being, then we naturally begin to respond to our world in the way He would. Remember, He willingly laid his life down for us. It was the ultimate show of love. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.” (John 15:13)

It is when this kind of love begins to take over, that our selfish tendencies naturally begin to change and we begin to be filled with Joy, we begin to sacrificially give to others, the hurting of this world begins to prick at our hearts, our world views begin to change and we start seeking to live in peace with each other. Now imagine the Body of Christ focusing its whole heart, strength, and mind on loving God. You would begin to see the Body of Christ naturally acting together in oneness of purpose and filled with the presence of God. Our God is not divided on purpose or mission and when we know Him perfectly, we too will not be divided on purpose and mission.

David Platt in his book Radical, states it this way: “All He (Jesus) wanted was a few men (and women) who would think as He did, love as He did, see as He did, teach as He did and serve as He did. All He needed was to revolutionize the hearts of a few, and they would impact the world.”

As I continue to grow and understand this powerful vision for Unity in the church, I find myself often overwhelmed by the obstacles in its path but then I am reminded that with love, all things are possible. It has been exciting to see God opening doors as I have begun to build interdenominational bridges.

Recently at the request of the Arcángel Film Festival in San Gabriel, I was invited to California to take part in a special film documentary highlighting our journey from adoption into ministry as well as co write an article* on unity and the challenges we face in Eastern Europe. In the process of all this, it was especially exciting to see the heart and passion of so many I met share their hope and desire for a more unified Body of Christ.

Their love of the Lord crossed the boundaries of our differences in doctrinal beliefs and all that mattered to them was the hope of serving together to reach a lost and hurting world. Let me encourage you to take the first step and love the Lord with all your heart and second, begin sharing that love with others.

Mother Teresa summed up “love your neighbor as yourself” when she said,
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done. We will be judged by - 'I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.'”


Vision for the Children International