Jesus’ Death and Our Personal Annoyances
Dear Church Family,
What a great day last Sunday was! A terrific morning of Christ-centered worship was followed by a sweet-spirited congregational meeting, and topped off by an all-church picnic. When I got home Sunday at 8:00 p.m., I was both exhausted and invigorated.
And what a beautiful thing to see so many people laughing and getting along so well at the picnic (Not that I expected anything different!).
Nevertheless, as I was completing a sixty-hour, sixteen-state-encompassing, round-trip driving tour with my family over the middle of July, I was reminded of how easy it is to be annoyed with each other. Even people you love. Toward the end of one particular evening, as we pulled into an economically priced (read: cheap and disgusting) hotel in Winslow, Arizona, it occurred to me that everything everyone was doing in the car was bothering me. The way one child slurped a milkshake. The way another lip-synced a Taylor Swift song. Even the way another stared innocently out at the surrounding cacti. I was just irked by all of it.
I realize that the problem was mine, not theirs. Fourteen hours behind the wheel (complete with about thirteen bathroom stops) will bring out the worst in a person, I suppose. The bottom line is: I was sinfully irritable with no one to blame but myself.
Sadly, it’s not just family members with whom we often get unrighteously annoyed. Sometimes believers in Christ choose the smallest (and oddest) things to hold against one another. From personality quirks to shifting preferences. I’ve seen close friends erupt at one another over differing interpretations of obscure passages (Can anyone really say for certain who the ten horns represent in Revelation 17?). On the less spiritual side, I’ve seen relationships nearly severed over a birthday party snub. I’ve seen people duck into the restroom just because they couldn’t stand to spend one minute talking to the oncoming individual. This is not at all uncommon in the believing community.
And yet, one of the things Christ died for was to create and establish peace between God and man AND man and man. And man and woman. Through the cross, the Apostle Paul says, Jesus “killed the hostility” that existed both vertically and horizontally (Ephesians 2:14-16), not only making reconciliation between God and man possible, but enabling us to love each other and get along, rendering inconsequential all those things that tend to separate us: race, color, education, family background, religious history, birthplace, etc.
The only thing that matters is: we are together “in Christ”—a group of people who have been forgiven of their calculated rebellion against God and granted new standing by faith in the active and passive obedience of Jesus. We might say it this way: we have been made to be at peace.
Consequently, there is no place for division among believers. Or even longstanding annoyances.
In his exposition of Ephesians, seventeenth century English Puritan, Thomas Goodwin, wrote:
“Upon the cross Jesus takes upon himself whatever either party has against the other. ‘Lo, here I hang,’ says Christ dying, ‘and let the reproaches wherewith you reproach each other fall on me, the sting of them all fix in my flesh, and in my death die all together with me; lo, I die to pacify you both. Have then any of you something against each other? Quit it, and take me as a sacrifice in blood between you: only do not kill me and each other too, for the same offense; for you, and your enmities, have brought me to this altar of the cross, and I offer myself as your peace, and as your priest. Will you kill me first, and then one another too?’ ”
Sure, there are plenty of things about which to disagree. And, I must admit, not all people are equally easy to love. But we have the most amazing thing in common: We have been bought with the unthinkably high price of Jesus’ shed blood. We have been supernaturally baptized into one family. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. All of our offenses against God and each other have been completely dealt with by Jesus’ cross-work. That’s all the reason in the world to get along with each other, and to get over our petty disagreements.
I say this not as a corrective, really, but as a reminder. I am thankful to be part of a church where the essentials are treasured and held tightly, and where the non-essentials—even those annoyances which threaten to divide—are handed over to Jesus, who died so that they need not ever keep us apart.
I’m looking forward to worshiping God with you on Sunday. See you then!