If anything drives suspicious unbelievers away from the fellowship of a congregation, it is the perception of hypocrisy on the part of the members. Supposedly a church is portraying a superior way to live. Supposedly congregations and their leaders have figured out divine secrets to a happier life. Outsiders assume that church people consider themselves more moral than the average Joe.
So when sin and Satan invade the sanctuary, news gets around. In the Macedonian city of Philippi, the unreconciled bitterness of a conflict between two women was not only making the two of them look bad; it was making the whole congregation look bad. Where was this harmony Christ talked about? Where was the spirit of forgiveness? “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).
Notice that Paul didn’t go into the reasons he may have heard of the conflict. He just urged them to figure it out. Paul would have agreed with James that “faith” without appropriate good works must be dead faith. We have received mercy from the Lord not just to comfort our own hearts but to enable us to become more merciful to others. We are forgiven in order to forgive, loved in order to love.
Are there any dysfunctions in your congregation right now that are hurting your reputation in your community? How are you positioned to bring about healing?
Pastor Mark Jeske has been bringing the Word of God to viewers of Time of Grace since the program began airing in late 2001. A Milwaukee native, Pastor Jeske has served as the senior pastor at St. Marcus, a multicultural congregation on Milwaukee’s near north side since 1980. In addition, he is the author of six books and dozens of devotional booklets on various topics.
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