September 28, 2022
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I think we all have awful memories of the painful scenes at Ground Zero in the rubble of the World Trade Center after September 11. I was kind of close to that because of our years in the New York area and even the people we knew in that building. And the firemen, policemen, emergency personnel, combing through the wreckage for their fallen brothers and sisters. You can remember. They would pause for a moment of silent tribute as the remains of one of them would be carried out. But at a time when there was talk of reducing the number of workers at the site, I saw a scene that was painful in a different way. Tempers flaring in the raw emotions of that moment, and some of those firefighters and police who had been fighting together to save or find people in the rescue and recovery effort were suddenly fighting with one another at Ground Zero.
I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "The High Cost of Christians Divided."
The moment was short-lived, but it still hurt to see it; people who on September 11, and the days that followed, had been so united in trying to rescue the dying, were now fighting with each other. Let me tell you, that kind of heartache is something God's been all too familiar with for a long time. His people, who should be united in an all-out effort to rescue the spiritually dying, are instead battling one another. That's not a new issue.
Way back in Philippians 4:2 and 3, our word for today from the Word of God, Paul was writing about some rescuers who had turned on each other. "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. (These two women had been co-workers of Paul's.) Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."
Now, notice, when these women were actively involved in what Paul calls "the cause of the gospel" - in other words, getting the life-or-death message of Jesus to people - they were together. But when they drifted away from the rescue mission of Jesus, they stopped contending for the Gospel and started contending with each other. That's still happening today.
Rescue unites God's people. When believers, when a church, when a ministry is focused on rescuing the spiritually dying whatever it takes, there's no time to battle with each other. We're too busy battling for the lives of the lost people around us. There was no conflict between those New York police and firefighters when they were in that wreckage desperately working together to bring some people out alive. Turf, ego and divisive issues: they're just not important when people are dying.
But so many of us, so many of our churches, are focused on ourselves rather than on those who are dying all around us spiritually. And, when we start focusing on our issues, our kingdoms, our distinctives, our likes and dislikes, our agendas, our opinions, we start bickering, forming cliques, power blocks, criticizing our brothers and sisters, and elevating things that are relatively trivial to being way too important. Important enough to even fight over, to split over.
Remember this: rescue unites - self-focus divides. It's a sad scene when the people who are supposed to be rescuers start turning on each other. You see, while God's spiritual rescuers are battling with each other, we're losing the battle for people who will die if we don't get to them. We have to fight for them, not fight against each other!