Saturday, July 2, 2011

Guarding The Branches

Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you. (2 Corinthians 13)

Harmony is the hallmark of vine grafted fruitfulness. If the vine loves the branches then the branches should love each other. My house is being painted and some of the branches of a lilac were roughly treated. I found those branches wilted and dead this morning. They had not yet fallen to the ground but they were truly gone. No nourishment flowed into them. While still momentarily green in a few days their loss will be plain.

I have felt like those branches in some seasons. I have been roughly treated. I have had fellowship withheld unless I served someone's ego or agreed with the disagreeable. I have suffered in church bodies that were not Kingdom bodies. One of the very first churches I sought membership in as a new Christian was one of the most controlling. I no longer carry the wounds but I do have some faintly visible scars. While I remained connected to Christ, the True Vine, and found other fellowship, I have seen how easy it is for some to become lost or unproductive through the carelessness of others.

Paul is saying to the body be safe with one another, be safe for one another. Be of one mind. Not the hive-mind that insecure leadership pushes. Not the mindlessness of the undisciplined. Christ-mindedness urges us to One-mindedness. His thoughts bring harmony, unity and safety. It is agreement with His will that is the dew watering the work. His shalom that destroys chaos. It is in this atmosphere of cooperation that..."the God of love and peace is with you."

What a jarringly hard task for some of us. I have been a wounder not just the wounded from time to time; impatient, unholy, critical, punishing people with my lack of approval. Looking at a behavior and not listening for the need. Surly the Lord could say to me, "Thy brother's blood crieth to me from the ground."

So where is the healing? And how do we immunize ourselves and our community against such spiritual savagery? We die. Plainly, we put to death every motive that we would be ashamed to have discovered in His presence. Every desire for career over Kingdom. Every mixed motive that calls into question the integrity of His love. Against all of these we must lift up our voices and, not sparing ourselves, cry out, "Crucify them!"

We are not ambitious to have churches full of people who never disagree with one another. I read a story about someone who asked, "Why do brothers and sisters in Christ fight?" The sage remark of the other person was, "B-r-o-t-h-e-r-s and s-i-s-t-e-r-s...Soooo?" Sibs mix it up. There is a way to remain in agreement with Christ and maintain fellowship. We remember we are family.

We do not seek to beget pews full of passive people who have no core, no concept of their of spiritual identity, no sense of destiny. Warrior-Brides are fruitfully gifted, strengthened and beautified by His revelation of their connectedness to Him, empowered by agreement with their Sovereign that they are an "army terrible with banners."

God's Sons are surefooted and single eyed, with undivided hearts and minds. They are confident that the sun can be made to stand still over their battlefields, the deadness in their homes can be called out and restored to life, and evil deposed all in the name of One whose armor they wear. They are the "lions that turneth not away for any."

We are His. Body, blood, soul, spirit, mind, hopes, dreams, aspirations and agendas, in prosperity and in want, in summers of song or winters of weeping, we are confederate with Christ; covenant partners with The Mighty Son Of the Living God. We are members of one body, one blood, one Spirit, one baptism, one community, loving one another as He loved us. Loving one another as we love ourselves. We are Jonathan to David. We are trusting and forgiving, able to apologize and produce repentant fruit, respectful and patient, easily entreated, unfamiliar with meanness or suspicion. Not coveting anything that is our neighbors.

The people in whose mouth is the "law of kindness" are the people "made great by gentleness." They are the people who live with the spirit of that Garden of Riches so beloved in Jesus' day.

In Christ's day there was a garden so fertile that there was not a plant its soil refused to produce...Plants that would normally compete and drive one another out also flourished side by side giving us a picture of the non-competitive environment God would have in the Church...The spirit of Gennesaret in our church life today promotes the development of a rich diversity and proficiency of spiritual gifts without envy or competition. All are encouraged and nourished toward developing their gifts. It is not reserved for a sacred few. All are trusting the Master Gardener to shape and direct. All are recognized as essential...(From Gennesaret)*

Love is humble, sacrificial and thankful. Love will take and hold ground where brute force can only makes a pretense. Love will step aside for God to promote a brother. It rejoices in the success of another. Love will admit wrong doing and bring forth repentant fruit. Love will self examine and brick up the walls so evil shivers outside in the cold. Love protects the vine from fear of foxes. When love is perfected fear is unknown. Love is a Kingdom Key. The hand that holds it will see the rest opened.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.(Colossians 3:15)

May the God of Love and Peace be with you, Shalom.

* Gennesaret-Garden of Riches by John LaMantia blog date 11/11/10

Picture: Peppers and pansies, mint and marigolds cohabiting a pot in my garden

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