American democracy is built on one simple premise. We don't trust people in leadership. Our constitution and the three branches of government were designed to prohibit power from resting in a singal group of people. This distrust is imprinted on our DNA, and sadly it creeps into the church.
Yet, distrust for leadership is a symptom of a deeper problem, trust between one another. How many peopel do you really trust, the kind of person you know will stand by you no matter what? They know your inner most secrets and still love you. A person like that is difficult to come by because we have experienced the pain of rejection and the hurt of betrayal. These types of actions create bitterness, and as we saw from the previous passage unresolved bitterness ends in destruction.
Distrust and enmity within the church creates an atmosphere of disunity. Our pain builds walls to protect ourselves from further pain and isolation is the result. But there are three keys to tearing down the walls that divide us and restore unity, but it isn't dependent on someone else. It is your responsibility and mine.
Key #1. Be Kind. Paul says we are to be kind to one another. The word means agreeable, useful, profitable, and good character. It is less about doing then it is about being. Wwe are to be kind. It is to resonated from within the core of our personality. A kind person looks at each situation as an opportunity to do something good. Criticism, judgmentalism, racism, animosity, rejection are antithesis to the kind person. Paul said to the Romans, "that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance." The kind person views every situation from a redemptive perpective. If we are to maintain the high calling of unity then we need to be kind peopel. The character of kindness always responds positively toward others.
Key #2. Be tenderhearted. Tenderhearted people are compassionate to others. They seek to empathize with hurting people and see past their negative state to understand their deeper conflict. Negative people respond from deep seated pain. Compassionate people don't take offense or respond in kind, rather they seek ways to reach out and show acts of compassion. It is easy to treat people who have not hurt you with compassion, but when you have been treated badly compassion can be lost in the haze of hurt. Jesus said love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you, and heap coals of kindness on their heads. In other words kill them with kindness. In order to maintain the high calling of unity we need to tear down the walls of division with compassion.
Key #3. Forgive. Forgiveness is releasing someone from the debt of retribution. We all make lists of past hurts. We pull them out when we argue with people. We remind them of all their past failings in order to dismiss their present grievances. We hold on to our hurt and its bitterness festers. Forgiveness releases the perpetrator from your right for wrath and punishment. In most cases it is an opportunity to reconcile the relationship. In extreme cases of hurt the release allows you to move past the hurt and heal. Disunity in the church is often the result of people having their feelings hurt or their ideas dismissed. Animosity between people is the result of petty differences. It is only when we chose to forgive one another that reconciliation can take place. The motivation is God's forgiveness of our sin. Jesus said if you do not forgive your brother then Good will not for give you. If you don't seek to bless your brother then God will not bless you. If we are to maintain the high calling of unity then we must reconcile with one another through forgiveness.
These keys are difficult. It means fighting against our flesh and walking in the Spirit. If you want to evaluate the depth of your spiritual walk ask, are you kind, are you compassionate, are you forgiving? I am glad that God has not left us alone in this task. He has given us the Holy Spirit to lead, guide and strengthen us as we walk this path together. I'm just saying....
Ephesians 4:32 "Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you."