Essentials for Local Church Harmony Day 3: Never “Arriving”
Instead, continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Messiah. Glory belongs to Him both now and on that eternal day! Amen. (2 Peter 3:18, ISV)
“I have arrived!”
Have you ever experienced a moment in life that makes you feel like saying that? I don’t think I really have yet, but I imagine many have. I would think that feeling exists in the mind of a football player the moment they win the Super Bowl. Or maybe an executive that has been climbing the corporate ladder hits the top rung: CEO. Perhaps a person finally buys their dream home. Of course, none of those people have actually “arrived.” The football player will be expected to win next season. The CEO must keep things going along well or face termination. And the homeowner is going to have to keep paying out money to keep the house in shape. Regardless of the feelings already mentioned, one thing is certain: on this earth, we will never spiritually “arrive.”
You may be thinking, That’s a nice saying, but what in the world does that have to do with church harmony? A great deal, I think, because of the ramifications of acting as if they have. What does that look like? Well, a person who deems themselves as having “arrived” believes they have nothing left to aspire to, learn, or accomplish. They’ve reached the top of the heap! If you read through many of Paul’s letters, this was actually a mentality that permeated the early church. There were “super Christians” who were telling people they needed to act like them if they wanted to truly experience the Christian life. Does that sound like a recipe for harmony to you? It sounds like a load of arrogance to me! And arrogance and harmony do not go hand in hand.
Peter’s final written words in Scripture are quoted above, and they are very well known. His desire for the Lord’s people was that they would “continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior.” I quoted the ISV here because of the word “continue.” As believers, the grace we show and knowledge we learn of Jesus should be more today than it was yesterday, and less than it will be tomorrow. It is a continual process of growth, knowledge, and understanding. When a person feels they’ve reached the summit, the foot comes off the gas and they are content to coast. Does that sound like a great plan for a church in harmony and in sync? Half of the Christians doing the work while the rest sit back and coast? Sadly, that happens too often; but it should never happen.
A local church will be far more harmonious and unified when these three attitudes are absent in believers: unteachable, unreachable, and apathetic. If a person feels they have arrived, what more is there to learn? We must all remain teachable. As noted yesterday, even Peter had to be taught by the brash nature of Paul. If I am willing to learn, what a difference that makes! Too often (especially in this age), we are too egotistical or fragile to accept any teaching, and it shows in the lackadaisical, lazy spiritual lives many live. Is that consistent with growing in knowledge? Hand in hand with being teachable is being reachable. We must be willing to open up to believers we trust and allow ourselves to be reached by loving people. It’s become pretty easy the past few years to wall ourselves off. All the while, it could just be that a person loves us and wants to help. Is shunning that love and care consistent with growing in grace?
Being unteachable and unreachable leads to one of the curses of modern church fellowship—apathy. An apathetic church will not be in harmony! Imagine a full orchestra with half the players dedicated to the piece they are playing and the other half doing whatever they felt like doing! That would be a wreck for sure. It’s the same in a local church. While some believers are “all in” to do what they can for the betterment of the church and the glory of God, it can be very discouraging for them to see others “playing church.” They fill a seat (when it fits their schedule) and go home. It doesn’t exactly breed unity, love, and devotion. Believers who are spiritually apathetic tread very close to the dreaded “lukewarm” description in Revelation. As the band Relient K brilliantly noted, “Being apathetic is a pathetic way to be.”
“I have arrived!” No, I haven’t. Let’s get to work.