[Sept 05]—Dealing With Insiders

            You might have noticed that I skipped a verse, namely 14, which talks about blessing our persecutors. I’m going to examine it tomorrow, joining it with vss. 17-21, since they all talk about how we deal with outsiders, those outside the Church, especially those who persecute us for being believers.
            But today Paul gives some general counsel on how to deal with others who’re with us on the inside, other believers. He gets into some more specific instructions in the coming chapters, but this is great place to set out some general principles on how to get along.
            The instructions in today’s verses could all be under the heading: You’re all part of the Body of Christ, so live like it!
            Paul talked about the truth about our essential unity in the Body back in vss. 3-8: We’re all part of one Body, but we all have different places in the Body, different functions. The Body needs you, and you need the Body. By the way, when I say he’s discussing the “essential” unity of the Body, I don’t mean it in the sense of “really really important.” I mean it in terms of “essence.” The fact that we’re one Body is not dependent on my knowing about this fact, or believing in it, or acknowledging it, or acting on it. In the spiritual realm, every true believer in Christ is united in one Body. If we don’t act in the light of this truth, we’ll (all) suffer, but that doesn’t change the truth one iota.
            This truth about essential (in the sense of “in essence”) unity is something we really have to get into our thick skulls sometimes. If one part of my physical body suffers, my entire body suffers. If one part of my body feels especially good (like getting a back rub from my wonderful wife), then all of me feels good.
            So when Paul tells us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn,” he’s basically telling us to live in the light of this glorious truth that we’re all part of one Body. In a very real sense, there's no such thing as individual victory or failure for an individual Christian. Your victories—at least in part—belong to me. My failures—at least in part—belong to you. There’s nothing that affects you that doesn’t—at least in part—affect me. This applies in the physical realm: Persecution of my siblings in China affects me. It applies in the spiritual realm: When I say “Yes” to sin and “No” to doing things God’s way, that affects you; when you say “Yes” to God and “No” to sin, that helps me.
            This should also be reflected in how we treat conflict with each other. Yes, we can have strong disagreements with each other. We might disagree about (nonessential) doctrines, or worship in different styles, or dress in different ways. But when we disagree with each other, it all must go under the heading of “This is my brother in Christ, and my speech to him and my conduct towards him are going to reflect that.” That’s why he tells us to “live in harmony with each other.”
            This also should also affect our attitudes in how we serve one another. If I understand and am living out this truth, how can I possibly be proud of my position in the Body? As Paul told the church in Corinth, “The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” There’s no place for pride here. If I refuse to associate with certain people who are my brothers in Christ, I’m denying this truth. Or if I refuse to do certain types of labor that need to be done because it’s “beneath” me, I’m denying this truth.
            You see, as I’ve been getting at, truth is true whether I know it or not, whether I believe it or not, whether I acknowledge it not, or whether I act on it or not. I may not A) know about, B) believe in, C) acknowledge, or D) act in the light of gravity. But the law of gravity remains unchanged, and if I ignored it (like walking off a cliff), I'd suffer for it. 
            So, rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Or not. But if you ignore reality, you’re hurting yourself. And the rest of us. 

Father God, how can I live out this truth today? Who’s around me who needs someone to rejoice with them, mourn with them? Is there an resolved conflict within the Body that I’m part of? Is there a place of service I need to step into, or a “nobody” that I need to embrace?

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