Churches exist in a messed up world with messed up people in them. Yes they are redeemed messed up people, but still, whilst we are in this world we still have the flesh, and therefore are prone perpetrate ungodliness.
In such a situation we are to get on and live. We are to live with a desire to sort out all of the vile consequences of sin in terms of damaged relationships and damaged lives. But we are to nevertheless, get on and live.
There can be the tendency to have an alternative mentality; the hang on and wait mentality. The hang on and wait mentality says that we cannot do anything until we have sorted things out. “It is all such a mess that nothing can be done until we have at least reduced the size of the mess” is the thought. Concomitant with this thinking is the expectancy that a big sort out will cleanse everything and then we can get on. Often this means arranging a big meeting or something of that ilk.
In preaching on the calling of the twelve in Luke 6:12-16 recently two things struck me. Firstly they were such mixed bunch. Just to mention a few things:
- You have two sets of brothers. Oh the danger of family loyalties.
- James and John were hot-heads (see Mark 3:17).
- Philip was a man for detail (see John 6:7). Peter was the “go for it” man. Not much time for details.
- Matthew was compromised with the Romans. Simon the zealot was part of the insurgency group against the Romans. A recipe for conflict there.
- Then there’s Thomas the depressive, who knows if anything could go wrong it will do.
Secondly the Lord did not tell them to sort out all of the issues between them and reach a settled “working agreement” and then get on and live and work for Him. Rather, they would have to live together and sort out the differences as they went along.
Similarly if you look at the New Testament letters we do not see the hang on and wait mentality. The letters generally refer to the mess in messed up churches and how it should be sorted. But the churches are never told to stop everything else while they go through a sorting out period. Rather thy are to get on and live whilst doing the sorting out.
I am not saying here taht we need to ignore stuff that needs to be sorted out; certainly not. Such a response is to seal the death-knell of pour churches. What is necessary surely is that we sort out the issues whilst seeking to live.
Accordingly, the church in Philippi had its problems with divisions and these are specifically alluded to chapter 4 vv2-3. Here we see encouragement to the church to make sure that Euodia and Syntyche resolve their differences. But then notice what Paul says in vv4-7. He calls them to be rejoicing, to be sweetly reasonably, to not be anxious and to pray. These spiritual exercises were not to wait until the problems were resolved, but were to be engaged in whilst sorting out the problems.