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Rebuilding Burned Bridges – How the Gospel demands bulls return and clean the china shops

September 8, 2009

burning-bridges

To all you church-hoppers, church-shoppers, pew jumpers, ship abandoners, captain haters, hill-diers, preference martyrs, stake nailers and wedge drivers who have burnt bridges by leaving churches in wrong ways for wrong reasons:

the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His cross demands that you humble yourself, love your brothers and sisters, and seek for unity and peace with the churches you have left in ruins by going back for reconciliation.

cgon130lToo often, Christians in their pride and prejudice, pickiness and preferences have acted like “a bull in a china shop” toward the churches they have left. The Gospel demands that these Christian bullys return to these china shops for a mass cleanup and reconcile not only with the customers (church members) but the china shop owner (pastor/leaders).

It’s high time us bullys clean up our messes for the sake of the Gospel.

This is not my idea. It’s been designed and decided on by the entire trinity of the Godhead: God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I get this from perhaps the sweetest of all the words of Christ, the High Priestly Prayer in John 17.

Jesus says:

20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”

Wow, did you catch that? Jesus, in a prayer for His saints for Himself and His Father’s glory, prays for perfect harmonious unity for the purpose of missions. Did you catch that? “Just as you, Father are in me, and I in you, that they may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (verse 21).

This puts a more serious bent and perspective on the damage done by Christian bullys who stormed out of a church. If they left in a sinful way for sinful reasons with a sinful heart, then they most likely did damage to the unity of that community of believers and therefore (like Christ prays) prevented the nearby world from believing in Jesus.

Let me say it again simpler: The bully causes a ruckus, storms out of a church with hurt feelings and hurt people, leaves a mess, causes division, the body suffers, the leadership struggles, unity is threatened, and therefore the local community is either preached a false Gospel or a nonexistent one. In other words, No Gospel At All is Preached!

Even Paul argues for unity once he learns of the bullying and division and immaturity going on in the church of Corinth in the first chapter of first Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 1:10-17

10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

Here Paul, embarassingly, has to remind the Corinthians believers why he was chosen by Christ: not to baptize but to preach the Gospel. And to do it not with eloquence or excellence but with authenticity so that the cross of Christ would be displayed as it truly is: powerful and purposeful and effective!

Paul is pleading with the Corinthians to stop creating cliques and groups and causing quarrels but rather to unify under Christ Jesus. Not under any favorite teacher, preacher, sermon, doctrine, preference, style of worship or other perifferal non-essential of the faith.

Its the same today. Same thing different day. Believers today are fighting over their personal favorites and preferences and prideful version of Christianity rather than submitting to the unity and power of the cross of Jesus Christ by the Spirit. They are, in a sense, bullying their way through the pews to manipulate and govern and let their boisterous voices be heard. They will not stop until damage has been done.

If you can relate to what I am speaking of and you have been this raging bull, the damage has already been done. The bridge is burned. The fires have raged. The wood is singed. The ashes are piled up. The smoke is almost done smoldering. The damage is done.

However, praise God it’s not too late to rebuild! It’s not too late to go back. It’s not too late to reconcile. It’s not too late to rediscover the beauty of the unity of the cross of Jesus Christ. What you must do is humble yourself, seek out the offended, take the initiative to seek restoration, and fight hard to reestablish a relationship of love, forgiveness, and reconciliation.

I know first hand what it is like to transition from gentle lamb to raging, fiery bull. Unfortunately, I was the bull in the china shop. I stormed out of a church in 2005 that I grew up in for 11 years. All of it over hatred for the man who led this church. If I’m honest I’ll ask these questions:

  • Did I seek out this pastor for conversation?
  • Did I seek to understand him?
  • Did I pursue a relationship with him?
  • Did I seek to honor, respect, love, and submit to his person and office?
  • Did I seek to see him as a brother in Christ, giving him the benefit of the doubt?
  • Did I seek to encourage, exhort, edify, build up?
  • Did I seek to ask more questions than make demands?
  • Did I seek humility towards him or pride over him?
  • Did I speak kindly and gently about him and his character and office?
  • Did I seek for peace, unity, kinship, and reconciliation?

The answer to all of these questions is a big fat NO!!!

I was too caught up in my own arrogant and damning pride to see the error of my own ways. The log I had in my own eye kept me from seeing clearly to actually help him with the specks in his. Grant it, reasons I left were largely theological, which very well could have been resolved if I had chosen the fight side of the “fight or flight mentality” rather than the flight side.

Typically the bull’s preference is to make a lot of noise, do a lot of damage and then run out. Not fight it out and stick around to help clean up and restore.

I am aware and encouraged by God’s mysterious sovereignty to take me out of that church and where I am now. Even with my own sin and pride to leave in a wrong way. Even though I may have done great damage to the testimony of Christ and to the preaching and applying of His Gospel. Yet there is not a day that goes by that I don’t regret and doubt my decisions of hastiness, desperation, impatience, hopelessness, and unbelief in the Gospel.

The simple truth is: I left too fast, too wrong, and too foolishly. There are people I should seek forgiveness from and those I should seek to forgive. Some of them leaders. It will take much humbling on my part to go back and reconcile. It doesn’t mean I have to go back permanently and rejoin for membership. But think of what power may come if I stepped out of my comfort zone for the sake of the prayer of our Lord and Savior, to gain unity among brothers so that Christ would be glorified and the world may believe.

Is it possible that the world is in grave unbelief now and the church is in a destitute state now because of an extreme lack of unity? Could it be that we don’t preach the unity of the cross accurately let alone period? What if the church came under the cross together? What would the world see?

The world would see Jesus; and more specifically they would see God and the oneness of His love and grace.

So Christian, what are you gonna do? The Gospel demands reconciliation whether you want it or not. If you are a creation of the cross of Christ, then you have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5). Your main duty of delight is to reconcile others to God, to each other, and to King Jesus! What does that look like?

Can you go back to that church you left in a rubble? Can you retreat in humility and seek out restoration? Can you forgive? Can you reach out? Will you obey the Gospel? God calls you to glorify Himself by glorifying His Son. One major way that happens is to be reconciled to your brothers and sisters in Christ. Being divided against them is unloving and hateful. And 1 John warns that those who do not love their brother cannot be born of God.

If you don’t love your family, you are not a child of God. Those are strong words. Do you believe them? Can you go back?

I will. I can. I must. Let’s go together. For the sake of the cross. For the sake of their unity and ours. For the sake of the world’s faith. For the sake of God’s glory.

It may take time, a lot of it. But it’s more than worth it. Let’s rebuild these burnt bridges. Let’s lay down our pride. Let’s embrace the humility of the cross and love our family in Christ. Clean up the china you bull. Repent and have faith in the unity and restoration of the Gospel of Christ. God forgives as you forgive others.

What are you gonna do? Maybe you need to write a hand-written letter. Maybe you need to show up in person. Maybe you need to buy lunch or make dinner and invite them over. Maybe you need to serve them by doing radical Gospel service for them. Maybe you need to privately confess. Maybe you need to serve under their leadership for some time. Maybe you need to seek them out for counsel for a while. Maybe you need to publicly apologize and repent before many.

Take a leap of faith. Make sacrifices. Take the initiative. Do the right thing, come what may.

reconciliation

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