“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” –John 13:35 (NIV)
Studying church history is quite fascinating. Yet it is also interesting to learn just how many times the church had to overcome factionalism in its history. Even from its early days the church had to deal with discord and schisms which erupted within its ranks on more than one occasion. Some of these disagreements even turned violent, and were in most cases motivated by personal or political reasons. As I read through the annals of church history I sometimes wonder whether I am reading about the same people who have been called by Christ Himself to love one another just as how He has loved us. It is no wonder that the disparity between the example of Christ and the behaviour of His children at times has become a source of confusion for many; prompting us to ask the question why does this happen?
If one thing can be said of the church it is that it has not survived for over two millennia because of the efforts of man. On the contrary it is because of the love of Christ and the grace which He shows to His church that it still stands strong today. The truth of the matter is that every single human being on this Earth is fallen. It is our pride embedded within us which leads us into sin and compels us to become embittered and fight against our fellow man. However, Christ came so that through Him our fallen nature will be cast aside and we will be restored to the people which He intended us to be. To this end He has given us a new nature through His resurrection characterized by His love and righteousness. But because we were slaves to our old nature for so long, we need to allow Christ’s Spirit residing within us to train us in our new nature and perfect His love in us. This means desiring to know Him and to know His heart by spending time reading His Word and being in His presence. Disagreements will happen, but if we choose to not keep in step with the Spirit of Christ, then factions and sin will be the result. It is only when we constantly submit ourselves in humility to Christ and allow Him to work out our His love through us that we are able to love others and maintain unity. The choice is ours. Will we allow sin to taint our witness for Christ, or will we allow Him to use us so that we may be His lights in a world which needs hope?
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.