Here’s Paul showing us that the real issues we face are timeless. This is Col 3:12-14:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Two days ago I had a long conversation with a friend in presbytery. A church in the area that has always been a large, healthy beacon in the region, is being torn apart by the issues of the moment. It’s tempting to say the damage is being done by differing views on masking and vaccines, but that isn’t the heart of it. The real dynamic, as Paul knew all too well, is the one he describes above. What Christ has done with us — humbling himself before us, being patient with us, loving us, forgiving us — we must do with others. Human hearts have an endless supply of things over which to become indignant (“How could they!”). The challenge we face is not how to get a hearing or how to get our way, but how to faithfully follow Jesus Christ in the pattern Paul describes. (You’ll see this Sunday from Revelation 4-5 that that’s what the Lord and John mean by “conquering.”)
Any church will blow apart at some point without the cruciform understanding Paul is describing. Unless our own lives embody (as best we can) the Lord’s own cruciform life, we’ll survive this crisis only to be destroyed by the next. The enemy is crafty; we are weak and susceptible.
I’ll say this plainly because churches are being destroyed in this moment: if you do not intend to as least try to embody the cruciform life of Christ, you need to be honest with him, and with yourself, and go find some other religion: fishing, mountaineering, mountain-biking (those would be my choices, but in reverse order). Don’t think of yourself as following Christ when it’s really just a guise for making demands of others. For those of you who do intend to follow Christ, you need to accept the difficulties, pains, and losses that my come with trading your own desires for the concerns of Christ (Paul: “I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church”).
Don’t think he will forget you. He will make it right in the end. Far more right than we can imagine. As Paul says later in chapter 3, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”