My previous blog addressed the fourth biblical principle of unity, The Model of Unity: The Mind of Christ, based on Philippians 2:4, “…in humility regard others as better than yourselves…” In retrospect it occurred to me that, while there are loving, edifying ways to debate and resolve conflict, in the humility that typifies the Mind of Christ, a first consideration always will be, “What if I’m wrong?”
I understand that some people just can’t comprehend that concept. In an overwhelming majority of times when I confront someone with the question, “What if you’re wrong?” the response is, “But I’m not.” Without the humility to consider—honestly—the possibility that he or she may be wrong, no person can participate effectively in the satisfactory resolution of any conflict.
But, on to the fifth principle:
I Corinthians 1:8-9 (NLT) (God) will keep you strong to the end, …for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
I’m flirting with the edge of meaning when I choose the New Living Translation, which says, along with four other English translations, “…he has invited you into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” In the original language the word is koinonia, which usually is translated, “fellowship.” Forty-two of the English versions available to me say, “…he has invited you into fellowship with his Son…”
The word literally means, “common”—as in common property. It is the basis of English words, like “community” and “communion.” The Amplified New Testament uses two words: “companionship and participation;” while the Easy to Read Version says, “(God) has chosen you to share life with His Son…”
I think the word, “partnership”, is totally appropriate.
Another word captures my attention: “…he has invited you into partnership.” It is the same word used in…
* Galatians 5:13: “…you were called into liberty…”
* Ephesians 4:1: “I … urge you to live a life worthy of your calling.”
* Colossians 3:15: “And may the peace of Christ reign in your hearts, be-cause it is for this that you were called together as parts of one body.”
The noun form means “those who are called,” and is most often translated, “church.” It is within Scriptural integrity to say we are called into partnership with Christ, and that constitutes a valid definition of “church.”
Again, like humility in the previous blog, this is a “hard sell” in a consumer cul-ture whose mantra is “the customer is always right.” The world defines “membership” as “paying your dues and getting your benefits.” The New Testament defines membership in the Body as “being called into partnership with Christ.”
From the greatest figures in the history of Israel and the church, to the most anonymous person on the back pew of some tiny congregation in the remotest part of Appalachia, all of God’s servants are called to personal roles and functions in the Body of Christ.
The calling of God is unique for each person. Some are dramatic: Peter Mar-shall, Saul of Tarsus, Convicted Watergate felon, Chuck Coalson. We can get so distracted by wide-screen, Technicolor celebrity calls that we completely miss the “still small voice” God may use to call us.
Jeremiah, Isaiah and St. Paul (among others) say God called them “from their mothers’ wombs.” In a sense God’s call is embedded in our DNA—not so much “event” as part of our identity as persons created in the image of God. It’s a kind of “Calling by Self-Discovery”; and some of us just kind of “grow into it” as we pay attention to the things we love to do and the things that bring us a sense of fulfillment and the things that other people affirm in us.
Some of us are less self-aware, so it takes something a bit more theatrical to get our attention. For some of us it takes a 2 x 4 upside the head; and some of us actually go through life blissfully oblivious to our calling. But all of us are called—every life has divine meaning and purpose, and those who discover it rarely demonstrate symptoms of depression or aimlessness or emptiness.
So, the callings of God’s servants vary greatly, but the calling is never to a merely private faith or piety. Isaiah’s call was not simply to restore Israel, but to extend God’s salvation to the “end of the earth.” In the opening lines of the Corinthian letter, when Paul says “you are called,” the “you” is plural—it’s “y’all are called!” It is not enough for us believers to cherish only a private faith; our fellowship with one another and our witness to the world, if faithful, will reflect the partnership with Christ into which God has called us.
Partnership. Here’s the IRS definition: “the relationship existing between two or more persons who join to carry on a trade or business. Each person contributes money, property, labor or skill, and expects to share in the profits and losses of the business.” And Wikipedia defines it as “an arrangement in which parties agree to cooperate to advance their mutual interests.”
Let’s consider one more New Testament image of partnership: the church as the bride of Christ. The traditional marriage vow is a promise to love and to cherish… “in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for better or for worse.” Remaining faithful only as long as we agree with each other does not fit any definition of partnership—or unity.
The good news is that our partnership is not dependent upon any of us being right, nor upon any of us being in agreement on any specific issue. It is God alone who "will keep us strong to the end, for he is faithful to do what he says, and he has called us into partnership with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”
And that’s how I see it through the flawed glass that is my world view.
Together in the Walk,