I am challenged again by today's study in John, specifically with the insights Jesus gives us with the parallel of vines and branches. This quote in Beth Moore's study in particular hit me:
"One of the most important elements of the branch is that it remains open to the flow of the vine's life. If the branch were simply wound around the vine tightly, it would still die without producing fruit. The branch must be attached to the vine with an opennes to recieve from it... So often we have our own agendas about how we want to serve God. We spend untold energy and never produce lavish, God-glorifying fruit. We must be open to the power flow and the purposed work the Vine wants to accomplish."
I am convicted that many times I have been tightly wound around Jesus, having in mind what I want to produce for Him, but not being open to Him feeding into me what He desires to produce. Is it big enough? Significant enough? Safe enough? Dangerous enough? Manageable enough? ... All "yes" in Him... but I try and shape it to make sure it fits my desire, rather than waiting for Him to produce the real thing - which will always surprise me.
This issue of unity has been on my heart for a while. The upcoming workshop, the recent Christian Chronicle article.... and most of all Jesus' prayer for us to be one so that the world would know He was from God....
I never realized that Jesus prayed this on His way to Gethsemane. Last words carry great weight. Having recently been with my grandmother before she died has brought that all the more clearly to mind.
I admit, the proposal of this year's Workshop at first announcement surprised me. And much of what is engrained in me struggled with the concept, -a worthy struggle as it helped me identify much dross that needed cleaned out. It has been one of the most worthwhile journeys this year.
It is never a vain journey to take a fresh look at scripture ...
... to discard what you thought may have been
there when you discover it really wasn't...
...to embrace what you never noticed before
because Jesus said it, even if you don't
understand it fully yet...
... to delight in what you have known before but
gained new appreciation and application for...
This pursuit of unity is multi-faceted. Many different convictions, opinions, timetables and struggles exist in the heart of genuine believers. As we embrace unity among believers, we embrace each unique believer, not just the concept of unity.
God calls us to do everything in faith, and to not step on the toes and consciences of those who can't make a move in faith. Yet there are bold words at times in scripture directed to those who make moves not in faith but in falsely placed convictions not rooted in Him.
I have been found standing in the shoes of each of
these categories. I have made mistakes, and been genuine in the making of them. I have been slow to respond to truth. I have stepped on the conscience of others. I have not moved in faith when I should have, and moved when I shouldn't have. ...opened my mouth in conviction when I shouldn't have and kept it shut when I shouldn't have.
So I come back to this struggle again. How do we balance conviction and humility? How do we genuinely honor those at a different place than us, as Paul encouraged sensitivity (1 Corinthians 8) to those who had always been raised to believe something incorrect, and yet move people to truth when we are convicted by it?
Paul did a great job concerning the council at Jerusalem. He was convicted of his message and understanding, but was not threatened by the possibility of more to learn, or teach.
I think humility is at the heart. I can trust that my motives are full of holes if my heart is filled with animosity and condecension towards someone I disagree with.
Are we quick to call one a 'heretic' or a 'Pharisee' simply because they disagree with our own view at the time? I'm reminded that it was a Pharisee who went to collect the body of our Lord after he died. I imagine Jesus shared meals with those who others gossiped about as heretics.
I don't see name calling as prevelant a practice among Jesus and the apostles as it is among us. When the apostles looked down their nose at someone else, our Christ didn't reward them, he rebuked them. We hear name calling all the time. In conversations, blogs, emails, behind closed doors, 'just between you and me'.... Does that reveal something about our own wrongly placed confidence? Our wrongly motivated hearts? Can we be passionate towards some and disgusted with others and still be within the will and high calling of the agape love of the One we desire to serve?
There is a time to turn tables. There is a time to wash feet. There is a time to sacrifice our freedom for the sake of others. There is a time to call others to His truth. Every time is a time to love.
Does that sound like a pansy answer? Try it. Do it well. Then see if it's easy. The biggest battle will always been in the deep testing of our own heart first.