Knitted Together to Defeat Satan
The greatest danger to the church is divisiveness. There are a lot of sins that can lead to it, but sins are forgivable. When we come to Christ we are to put aside envy, strife, and contentiousness, not just because they are sins, but because they lead to a fractured body of Christ. Satan has his greatest victory within the church when he gets us to fight among ourselves.
It's not easy. There are plenty of "good" and "righteous" reasons that split churches: bad theology, moral corruption in leadership, social issues, church and national politics. As I read through the New Testament the Apostle Paul wrestles with the churches in regard to the issues that divide them. He calls out their sin, corrects their theology, and exhorts them think of others first. He believed that the truth spoken in love would unite the church. He also believed that church discipline unites the church. Removing cancerous thinking and behavior is crucial to a healthy body. But he always hoped it was a way of restoration for the individual.
Today I read, "For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love" (2:1,2).
It seems counterintuitive for a Christian to brag about their struggles on behalf of others. But the Apostle didn't do it to glorify himself. His purpose noble. He wanted every believer, who had seen or not seen him, to be knit together in love. He wanted them to be united.
There is nothing like a common struggle to bring people together. The never Trump movement casts an apocalypse of a Trump presidency. Republicans try to bring us together against the evils of a Hillary presidency. We coalesce around perverse social issues and sign petitions in order to speak as one voice. As Christians we are called to pray together for the persecuted church. There isn't a drought of causes that can unite the church nationally or locally. But the Apostle Paul wanted the churches to know his struggle, not to advance a personal cause, but that their hearts would be knit together in love.
I can still picture my mom sitting on the couch knitting. She knit afghans. Not the nation, but knitted blankets. They were the terrible colors of the 70's. She wasn't very good at it, but it was relaxing. She tried to teach me, but I was even worse. It was complicated; knit one and pearl two. They were strong, interlocking weaves stringing together multiple colors in interesting patterns. There were no two exactly alike.
That's what love does. Through the love of Christ, through our common faith in him, our love for one another links us, in all our diversity, into a stronger unit (unity). Knitted love doesn't come without struggle. The Apostle wanted to encourage us with his struggle so that we would struggle through the knitting process of love and come out on the other side a tapestry of color and diversity, united in Christ.
There is only on struggle, however, that can truly unite the Church. It is the struggle for the gospel. It is the one truth that all believers can rally around. We stand together on the foundation of Jesus and then struggle in love over our diversity. Struggle isn't the opposite of love. Strife, contention, backbiting, selfishness, and unforgiveness divide us, because they drive an unloving wedge between believers. But love doesn't seek its own agenda, but the servant seeks the agenda of his master. Our Master calls us to be knitted together in love. It is the defining behavior of the believer, "and they will that you are my disciples because of your love for one another."
So, as a minister of the gospel, who struggles on your behalf with the mystery of the kingdom, let me encourage you to set aside the sins that entangle you (that screw up the afghan) and forgive offenses, give thanks for your blessings, encourage others and be knitted together in love. The gates of hell can't stop that! I'm just saying.