Who Do You Belong To?

by Erin Bird

Welcome to August! Hard to believe summer is two-thirds over, and school will be starting up in just 3 short weeks. How are you going to make the most of these remaining summer days?

Continuing on with Romans 12

We are in the early part of a series from Romans 12 here on the blog. Last week we looked at verse 3, so this week we will look at verses 4 & 5, which say:

For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

Paul, after talking about humility, reminds his readers in ancient Rome (as well as us in modern Iowa), that just as they each have a physical body with many different parts, the church is the Body of Christ, which is made up of many different parts (which is us!).

Next week, we’ll see Paul talk about the differences of those Body parts. But this week I want us to look at the emphasis Paul puts on a key concept in these week’s sentence: Unity.

United by Christ

With the Republican and Democratic conventions having both finished, America seems more divided than ever. Not only do the Republicans and Democrats hate each other right now, but the GOP party seems to have a lot of division over Trump, the Bernie supporters are angry at the DNC’s nomination of Hillary, and the Libertarian and Green parties are hoping this is the year they do the unthinkable against the two-party system they hate.

So much for being the “United” States of America. (Perhaps the Olympics will bring a little unity to our nation…)

Sometimes, politics creep into the church. And I’m not talking about whether you have an R, D, or I on your voter registration card. Sometimes, church attenders will disagree over doctrine, worship style, volume levels, and such. And they will engage in political campaigns to get their ideas accepted by the rest of the church.

But these church “campaigns” rarely lead to unity. Usually someone gets mad, people leave, and the gospel gets lost in the chaos.

But what Paul is stressing in Romans 12 is that while we are each individuals, we don’t belong to just ourselves. If we are Jesus-followers, then we are owned by Jesus through His gospel, which in turn means we belong to each other.

Think about that. If you are not your own, if you belong to those who are part of your church family, then you can’t clamor and play politics trying to get things done your way. Out of humility (which we talked about last week), you place the needs and desires of others before yourself, so that you might help them find and follow Jesus.

Imagine what church would be like if we realized we didn’t belong to just ourselves, but that we belonged to one another? We would love one another deeply, we’d pray for each other earnestly, we’d serve each other willingly, we’d give to one another generously, we’d avoid sin more ferociously, and we’d we’d bear one another’s burdens gladly.

But in order for that to happen, it means we have to invite people into our lives. We can’t sit back waiting for others to come love us. Instead, because we belong to one another, we jump in and get to know one another, hear their stories, invite them into our homes, help with their kids, listen to their worries, and serve them with food, skills, or our presence.

So this week, reach out to someone in the Riverwood family. Invite them over for a meal or to go out for lunch after Sunday’s Worship Gathering. Or perhaps you can invite someone to come serve alongside of you on Sunday or at Tuesday’s Food Bank. Let’s care for one another because we belong to each other through our faith in Jesus.

Four Ways to Build Unity

by Erin Bird

This past Sunday, we looked at 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Through that passage, we saw that unity is one of the benefits when each Jesus-follower in a church family uses their spiritual gifts for the common good. One of Jesus’ closest disciples, Peter, also touches on this same topic and gives four ways church unity can be achieved. Here is what he wrote:

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”#83A8BC” class=”” size=””]“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.”
1 Peter 3:8-9[/pullquote]

Notice in verse 8, Peter instructs his readers to have “unity of mind.” He then lists 4 things that will help achieve that unity.

#1: Sympathy

Back in 1 Corinthians 12:26, we saw Paul mention that in a unified church, when one suffers, all suffer. Peter says the same thing in one word: sympathy. When someone in your church family faces something tough, you feel it with them. A unified church will walk through the difficulties together, having sympathy for one another.

#2: Brotherly Love

Likewise, back in 1 Corinthians 12:26, we saw Paul also say that when one rejoices, all rejoice. When you are experiencing unity, you don’t feel jealousy when something great happens to someone like the birth of a child, getting a new job or promotion, getting married, or winning a award. Rather, because you have brotherly love for that person, you celebrate with them. When you care for someone, you feel as if you share a little bit in their moment when they have something good happen.

#3: A Tender Heart

Along with brotherly love, a gospel-saturated life will develop within you a tender heart. Then you will seek to be sensitive to the needs of those around you. When someone says something harsh, your tough hide deflects it, and your tender heart sees through their pain and you actually hurt for them rather than be offended by them.

#4: A Humble Mind

When talking about the spiritual gifts in Romans 12, Paul tells the Jesus-followers in Rome to “not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.” When you are full of pride, your thoughts dwell on yourself. But when you have a humble mind, your thoughts dwell on others and how you can bless them.

Two Unity Barriers

Also notice that Peter gives two barriers to unity: repaying evil for evil and reviling (insults) with reviling.

When you want revenge (repaying evil with evil), you can’t have unity. Revenge is all about making someone feel the pain you felt. When hurtful words are said to us, our human response is to say hurtful words back. This doesn’t create unity because it doesn’t draw the heart of the other person toward you; it pushes them away.

Instead, have a tough hide and let the insults and evil be deflected off of you and absorbed by the gospel of Jesus. Then your tender heart and brotherly love will pour out for the other person. This is what Paul says at the end of chapter 12 in his letter to the Romans:

“Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. To the contrary, if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

When you overcome evil with good, when you have sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind, you will experience a church unity you never thought possible! It is tough to achieve; you have to fight against your natural tendency to hurt those who hurt you. But when you respond with grace, when you seek to be a blessing to others, amazing things happen!

And I look forward to experiencing it with you for years to come. 🙂

One Church

When I was raising money to start Riverwood, potential prayer and financial supporters would ask me, “how many churches are there in Waverly?” At that time, I counted between 12-14 (the number varies because some it depends on which denominations/religions/cults you count as a “church.”)

But if you pause and think about it, there really is only one true church.

And it’s not Riverwood.

Nor Open Bible. Nor Grace Baptist or the Vineyard. Nor St. Mary or St. Paul’s or St. John.

The one church is Jesus’ Church.

All those who claim Jesus as their life leader and make his sacrifice on the cross the SOLE means of their salvation, choosing to make His gospel the core of their identity, are part of God’s church.

And God only has one Church.

Now, there are different expressions of that church. Some congregations are more celebratory. Some appreciate rich tradition. Some are more intellectual in their approach while others are more emotional in their worship. Some gatherings are in spacious buildings that leave you in awe, while others are in spaces that bring you close to others.

There are a variety of congregations, but when it comes down to it, there is only one Church. And Jesus is its pastor.

This coming Sunday afternoon, as part of Heritage Days, the one Church of Waverly is gathering to worship Jesus through song, Scripture, prayer, and more. We’ll gather at 4:00 pm at Kohlmann Park (across the river from the Civic Center where Riverwood meets most Sunday mornings). Redeeming Rebels will lead the one Church in worship through song. And we’ll have a wonderful reminder that while there are around 15 different congregations in Waverly, there is only one Church.

And that one Church will get to honor its Pastor.

So come Sunday morning at 10:00 am to the Civic Center to hear the next part of our Re: series, then come at 4:00 pm to Kohlmann Park to be part of something bigger.