The kingdom moves on, but it is slowed with “big buts.” Like on my first mountain hike, when I was an Alabama boy fresh off the plane. I had recently eaten 20 pounds of too much cornbread and fried okra. I was, by one hour, the last one to arrive at the summit, on a 45-minute hike.
The bride of Christ has one huge “but,” and to prove it I will ask a question, “Which of the following is most important?”
- A clean water project in a village that has lost 20% of its population to dysentery
- Caring for HIV orphans
- Ending sex trafficking
- Building a new faith community, committed to a model of simple, intimate worship, shared leadership and service to others.
- Providing a refuge for a victim of domestic violence who is fearing for her life
- An addict, at the bottom, looking for sobriety
- An unprecedented opportunity to bring the gospel to a people group for the first time
- Spending an hour in silence and prayer, listening for God to provide direction
I can hear your “but…”
But why care about food if someone is going to hell?
But you should first care for those around you before you look overseas.
But you should care about the least, the farthest from help first before looking overseas.
But without an intimate relationship with God nothing else will matter.
But if I am in recovery, my first responsibility is to those seeking sobriety.
But the Great Commission says my job is to take the gospel to the world.
You may notice a glaring omission or two in the above check-boxed list of important kingdom-related activities. Or you may say that they are all important, that it all has to be done. But suppose you are in a scenario that because of a limited budget (I suppose all budgets are limited), you can only pick one.
The one you pick is your “big but.”
Your big but is not a bad thing. Your spiritual gift is discovered by your spiritual passion. As Christ-followers we care about many important aspects of our faith, but we usually have a deep passion for one thing above others. In fact, your passion is a clue to the person you were made to be.
I don’t believe a spiritual gift is necessarily something given at a point of conversion, like a prize, but I do think our life passion has been with us since childhood. I have always liked to teach and preach, and long before I was a Christ-follower I always picked the oral book report over the written ones. In a similar way, I have seen children with an innate sense of justice grow to be lawyers and advocates.
Unity within the Body of Christ does not require me to relinquish my spiritual passions. Instead, I think healthy unity requires:
- I stop diminishing those who value what I don’t
- I view unity as rope being pulled, not a straight line as “us versus them,” tug of war, but as a rope tied in circle, where each passion pulls forcefully and what is in the middle is what is best
- I embrace compromise, not acquiescence, as best
I often hear, and even mutter myself, “They just don’t get it.” That’s when our big but gets in the way of what is best for our fellow Christ-followers and for the Church as a whole.