“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.” (Ps. 133)
One of the things that impressed me most about Charles Colson’s Born Again was the author’s stirring depiction of the bond between brothers in Christ.
In the volcanic aftermath of the Watergate scandal, Colson – hitherto one of Nixon’s notorious “hatchet men” – became a convert to Christianity. As a result, he made an effort to seek out fellowship with other believers – starting with those in the political arena.
The task assumed a more daunting aspect when he figured out that many of his new “brothers in Christ” were also his sworn political enemies. He hated what they stood for; they returned the feeling. How could there possibly be any real fellowship between them?
But Colson was in for a surprise. Not only did he find fellowship with these men, he found deep fellowship – rooted, persistent, and profound. As Christians, they had a common, glorious cause. And in light of that cause, the differences between them were all but forgotten.
The finest example of this occurs when Colson sits down to meet with Senator Howard Hughes. Two men.One room. Polar opposite politics. After getting off to a rocky start, Colson ventures to share the story of his conversion. He concludes, “As a new Christian I have everything to learn, I know that. I’m grateful for any help you can give me.”
For a moment there was silence. Harold, whose face had been enigmatic while I talked, suddenly lifted both hands in the air and brought them down hard on his knees. “That’s all I needed to know. Chuck, you have accepted Christ and He has forgiven you. I do the same. I love you now as my brother in Christ, I will stand with you, defend you anywhere, and trust you with anything I have.”
I was overwhelmed, so astonished, in fact, that I could only utter a feeble, “Thank you.” In all my life, no one had ever been so warm and loving to me outside my family. And now it was coming from a man who had loathed me for years and whom I had known for barely two hours. (pp. 164-165)
Those of us inclined to cynicism might scoff at this point. “It’s too good to be true,” we say. “Pretentious. Naive. Like the Hallmark channel. Good in theory, but not in practice.”
But is it really? Perhaps our preoccupation with “real world-ness” has simply jaded us to beauty and power of unity in Christ.
Believers are bound together by cords, the strength of which have no equal: we have been saved from the wrath of God by the redeeming blood of His Son. The Lord of the Universe was flogged, stripped naked, and nailed to a tree – for us. Wretched, vile, undeserving us. That is what binds us together as brothers and sisters in Christ.
Is anything more magnificent? Is anything more humbling? “Surely not,” we answer. Then why do we act as if there is?
We have something in common which overshadows all our differences; yet when interacting with fellow Christians, we often pull out other yardsticks to measure them by. Are they paedo-baptist? What do they think of pre-millenialism? Do they homeschool? Will they vote third party? Based on the results of our mental checklist, we decide whether we should give them the cold shoulder. Or at least, a colder shoulder than we give other believers.
Are doctrinal/political/”fill in the blank” differences important? You betcha. But they aren’t the most important. When we act as if they are, something is seriously out-of-whack.
“For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Cor. 3:3-7)