And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (ESV)
I am currently living with the foremost expert on penguins at our local elementary school. My second grade son has read about them, studied them, and watched Happy Feet about 2,945 times (2,944 of those viewings with his dad). There isn’t a penguin fact he can’t recite from memory – whether you ask him to or not. We can be discussing pizza and he will blurt out, “Daddy, do you know why penguins are white on their tummies and black on their backs?”
Penguins live in communities, called rookeries. They come together with a simple purpose: survival. However, they are designed to serve a greater purpose for all Antarctic life as both predator (of small fish) and prey (of bigger seals and whales). Even if their larger purpose is merely their place in the food chain, they still play an important role as part of God’s grand design for His creation.
God created the simple penguin with a purpose. How much purpose do you suppose people – His most beloved creation – are called to possess? And what is our purpose?
Our purpose is simple: love one another. If we follow the lead of Christ’s love, all else will follow. If we are seeking God, love must propel our journey. This is how we propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ: by loving others, and doing all to the glory of God (for that is our original created purpose, to bring glory to the Lord), praising the Lord and giving Him thanks continually.
As Christians, we are called by love another, serve one another, and support one another. Penguin rookeries are sometimes inhabited by more than one species of penguin, living together harmoniously. Why is that so hard for believers? We have the perfect designed example of the Triune God – Father, Son, Holy Spirit, each singular in personage yet united in purpose literally One Substance.
Read 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and you will discover that the church is the body – a community, a unified whole. And the first church was not divided by denominational notions and theosophical beliefs. There were no Catholics or Baptists or Methodists or Charismatics or Evangelicals (although a dear brother of mine once pointed out that Jesus was a Nazarene). When we stand so proudly and firmly on our own theological precepts that Christians who hold different interpretations become our enemies, something is profoundly wrong.
“…if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:25, ESV). And, let’s face it, God’s house is definitely one divided. We cling so tightly to our theological beliefs that we wring love right out of the picture. We – and I am saying “we” as the larger whole of Christianity and no one group or individual specifically – seem to have forgotten our calling, our purpose, our reason for being here: to love. Regardless of religious affiliation. Regardless of political leanings. Regardless of sins, past or present. Regardless of nationalities or borders or philosophies or influences or whatever it is that serves to divide us.
We are all sinners saved only by the grace of God by faith in Jesus Christ.
We are all hopeless without the love and grace of the Lord.
In these things we are all equal.
We all need to focus on less on what we think is wrong with everyone else, and focus on the one unifying factor we need to bring us all together: God.
This is why I (half-jokingly, but only half) refer to my beliefs are firmly “Calminian”. I have experienced Christianity from many different religious / theological perspectives over the years. I’ve been Methodist. I’ve been Charismatic. I’ve been Baptist. I’ve been Disciple of Christ. I’ve been independent. I’ve been part of a franchise church. I’ve been evangelical (whatever “evangelical” means). I’ve been mainline and mainstream.
Through it all, I have been blessed to know many God-loving people of all Christian stripes who I am honored to call my brothers and sisters in Christ. Some speak in tongues. Some are vehemently against it. Some read the ESV or NIV or NLT Bibles. Some believe the KJV is the only Bible. Some go to church on Sunday morning, some on Saturday night. Some attend at beautiful cathedrals, some in modest country churches, some in converted warehouses, some in school gyms and auditoriums. Some meet in homes as small house churches.
None of that matters to me. And it shouldn’t matter to you. Whether you view communion as consubstantial, transsubstantial or substitutionary doesn’t change the fact that God loves you. Who you are – who I am – is defined not by what we do or what brand of Christianity we prefer. I really enjoy Coke Zero. I don’t hold it against Diet Pepsi drinkers.
Who I am – who you are – is defined by God, our Creator. All of us, each of us, individually and collectively… we are sinners saved by the grace of a loving God Who humbled Himself, became flesh and died as the perfect sacrifice for our sin, then ascended gloriously into heaven, overcoming death and thus nullifying the wages of sin. In other words, the only things that truly divide us as Christians are the walls and fences we ourselves build.
We are all called to follow Christ, to be imitators of Jesus. In other words, we are called to love. Unconditionally. As Christ loves us. We all have biases to overcome. Love runs counter to sin, so it simply is not natural for our sinful selves to lead with love. I mean, truth be told there is something about those Diet Pepsi drinkers that bugs me deep down. (Just joking… Diet Pepsi is a fine product and I mean no malice against it or any other soft drink.)
But, every day, we need to take up our cross and follow Christ We must love others. For that is our purpose. To honor and glorify God in all we do by loving others, being the light on a hill, shining the message of Christ to the world around us, wherever God places us.