The band of 12 disciples who followed Jesus throughout his public ministry were a rag-tag lot, weren’t they?
Consider James and John, the sons of thunder, who asked for the ‘privilege’ of destroying some of the opponents of Christ. (“When the disciples James and joh saw this, they asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?'” – Luke 9:54) With ‘frends like this, who needs enemies?
Or consider Judas Iscariot, who professed ‘concern’ for the poor when he saw a woman wasting perfume worth a year’s wages on Jesus. (“He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.” – John 12:6)
How about Peter, who opted privately to ‘straighten out’ Jesus because of his resistance to God’s will. (“Jesus turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me;…” – Matthew 16:23)
As Jesus in the Upper Room gave some of his most profound instructions to the group, what did he say? Among other things – “As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:35
Peter must have been listening and in his letter to the early Christians he urges obedience in the same direction.
“Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.” (I Peter 3:8)
Harmony, sympathy, love, compassion, humility – hardly natural-born characteristics! These would need to be forged into the fabric of these feisty followers by the refining fires of God’s Spirit. God is not urging a blind ‘let’s accept everybody and ignore any differences.’ But within the body of Christ, genuine Christ-followers will provide ample evidence that even in their ‘disagreements’ they are operating with grace.
I must confess to ‘prodding’ the odd Facebook ‘friend’ who arrogantly posts a claim suggesting a position of ‘infallibility.’ The marks of maturity are certainly not division, strife, hatred, disgust and pride. I find myself being ‘rebuked’ in my spirit when I am tempted to ‘trash talk’ others who aren’t as ‘advanced’ as I am!
I’m wrestling with some of these issues as I prepare for a weekend of ministry soon in dealing with an assigned topic – “The difference the gospel makes in the life and culture of the believer.” The old detergent commercial motto may show up as an illustration in one sermon. You know the comment – “I can’t see the difference. Can you see the difference?” When it comes to grace-filled living and Spirit-led conduct, there must be a difference!