We were almost at the end of a three hour drive one day when a ruckus erupted from the backseat.
It’s my plane!
No, it’s my plane!
Where was the plane in question, you might ask? In the sky. That’s right. The plane was flying miles over our heads, pilots and passengers blissfully oblivious to the two squabbling children in my backseat fighting over something that didn’t belong to either one of them.
Sometimes we’re like that with church. I wrote last week about the importance of koinonia and the power of unity in the body of Christ. In Ephesians Paul warns us to be diligent to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:3). Unity is part of our birthright as children of God, but it is also something we must be diligent to preserve. We can kill koinonia with our attitudes and actions. Control is at the top of the list of koinonia killers.
When we’re involved in church it requires a deep emotional investment from us. Our time and friendships are interwoven with the life of the church. We give financially to support the work of the church. Our spiritual sense of well-being is tied to the congregation. Sometimes because of that investment and those tight ties we start feeling like the church belongs to us.
It doesn’t. Christ is Lord and head of his church, and we all belong to him. As the church we create a dwelling place for the Spirit of God. We are united around our worship, celebration, and proclamation of Christ and his redeeming work. But the end of the day the church doesn’t belong to us. It is Christ’s church, and we are his servants to command.
We know this, but sometimes we still wind up like two children fighting over something that neither one of them can ever possess. We carry our consumer culture with us when we walk through the church doors and insist that it be about us. We want the music we like and pews that cushion us comfortably. We want teaching that we can applaud but doesn’t make us uncomfortable. We want things done our way in our timing. Like children, when we don’t get what we want we squabble, fight, and complain. That spirit of control kills koinonia.
It’s not what God wants from us. God calls us to be like Jesus, who laid aside his glory and made himself the servant of all. He calls us to submit to one another and honor one another in brotherly love. He calls us to remember that the church is not for us, but for his glory. Our driving question should not be “what pleases me?” but “what pleases Christ?” The answers to those questions will look different in different cultures and different contexts, but we must remember that ultimately Christ is in control of the church. We must all yield to him. Yielding to Christ’s control forms the foundation for koinonia.
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