Until about one month before we got married, my bride-to-be and I were separated by a long distance. Even our engagement began while we were in different states about a 5 hour drive apart. We often took an hour or more just saying good-bye at the end of a visit or a phone call (remember dialing 10-10-220 and it was just 10 cents a minute?). I remember looking forward to the day that we wouldn't have to say good-bye after our time together. We were giddy with anticipation about what married life would be like. Of course, we both had our expectations about what it would look like.
There are few worse things in life than unmet expectations. In our first year, we discovered a number of expectations that each of us held and perhaps didn’t communicate. We often discovered them through very gentle, even toned, wise, thoughtful arguments (sarcasm should be noted in this sentence). Many of our disagreements developed out of assumptions that led to expectations that led to unmet needs which finally led to hurt feelings. Thankfully, God was gracious and carried us through.
In the book of Romans 12, we see that God’s design for the church (both universal and local) is unity of one body that is made up of many parts. The author points out at the beginning of this section that each one of us should begin from a mindset of surrender to God. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship (Romans 12:1 CSB).” Our relationship to the body of Christ (the church) begins in a place a true surrender to the Lord. A living sacrifice is different than a dead one (sacrifices were usually dead). A living sacrifice can get up off the altar so it takes consistent resolve to remain in a place of obedience to Christ.
The second focus deals with our attitude about ourselves and toward one another. In Romans 12:3, the writer commands, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one.” One of the quickest ways to harm relationship is to come from the perspective that we are better than another. It is helpful to realize that God created each one of us and designed us to fit into the body in the way He deemed best.
We shouldn’t think that our own gifting makes us better than someone else with a different gifting. We might perceive our own gifting to be the superior gifting, but in God’s universe, it’s simply different. By definition, if what we have came from Him in the first place, then it truly is a gift. If what we have is a gift, we have no room for boasting or viewing ourselves as better than someone else because what we have was given to us.
Finally, we are instructed to show preference to one another. “ Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10 NASB95).” One of the best ways to practice a loving relationship is to learn about the other person and learn how to show them honor based on who they are. It’s paying attention to them and not demanding our own way. We might have to let go of our own preferences of traditions, styles, or practices, but we unite on the essentials of faith that draw us and hold us together.
These guidelines can be helpful in either a marriage or in a church. These principles are going to be critical as we come together as churches (Faith Baptist Church and Valley Community Church). Let each one of us be committed to being fully surrendered to Christ our Lord as living sacrifices. Let us have a godly, healthy attitude about ourselves and about those with whom we share congregational life. Let us unite on the essentials of the faith, but give much grace when it comes to matters of preference.
As one of my old pastor’s used to say, “we need to determine if this (matter) is a difference between a right and a wrong, or just a right and a left.” If it’s a right or wrong, then it is an essential and we want to be on the side of being morally and theologically correct. If it’s a right or a left, then it’s probably a non-essential and let’s show honor to one another whether a decision goes our way or not.
I am truly excited about the possibility of this merger. May God be honored and may He cause His church to flourish!
Justin began serving as the pastor at Faith in February of 2013. He is passionate about people having the opportunity to hear the good news about eternal life through Jesus Christ.