Matthew had himself a good government job and he was well compensated for what he did. His job with the government, however, did not win him any popularity contests.
Simon was completely different. He hated the very government that Matthew worked for. He even belonged to a group known to assassinate some of those government officials.
Despite their differences, Simon and Matthew got along just fine. But how? What was it that made a government man and an anti-government man live side by side as brothers and play a part in changing the world?
Please forgive me for the Sunday School answer but here it is.
When Jesus’ earthly ministry began, he hand picked the least likely men to be his disciples. To put it in today’s terms, Jesus selected some guys from the cast of The Deadliest Catch, a crooked IRS agent and a guy who had Don’t Tread On Me tattooed on his forehead to leave their old lives behind and follow him. As different as all of these men looked, they still had a few things in common.
They all sinned. That sin may have shown itself in different ways but it was still there.
And, with the exception of Judas, they were all saved by a gracious and loving God.
Your church would do well to remember this. It’s Christmas time. Many churches, the good ones at least, are looking for ways to help families and entire communities. That’s a good thing. But it is possible for all of that hard work, donating and volunteering to be a complete waste of time.
There were times when Jesus sent his disciples out on specific, short missionary efforts. He never sent them out as individuals. There is no biblical evidence that he divided them up according to their political views. Even if they went out in groups of two, they went as one.
No matter how much good your church does this Christmas, it will all be overshadowed if the people in your church don’t love each other. If the pastoral staff and the deacons are fighting with each other, all of the fruit baskets in the world won’t cover it up. If the group of people in charge of decorating has it out for the group of people in charge of cleaning, your church (the body, not the building) will always be ugly.
The Christian call to unity is not a call to place our doctrine to the side so that we can all get along. Instead, it is a reminder that all true believers share one thing in common.
When we get a grasp of that, it somehow makes the petty things that divide us seem, well, petty.
On Tuesday, I heard a woman talk about how she was brought up in a Satanic household. For a portion of her life, she would visit evangelical churches with her mother. They weren’t there out of curiosity. They were there to infiltrate the church. The girl, who is now a believer, said that they weren’t just there to bring in false doctrine. They wanted to create instability within the church. According to her, this was done most often through gossip.
Not goat sacrifices.
Not weird chanting.
It could be that your church doesn’t need to be infiltrated by some Satanic organization. The gossip being spread by the so-called believers who are in the church are already doing a fine job on their own of creating instability.
If a church is unified under Christ, they won’t throw their doctrine out the window. They will however throw gossip out. Along with bitterness. And envy. And anything else the is contrary to the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Satan is not worried when your church serves soup to homeless people this Christmas. Your high dollar Christmas play does not give Satan a bit of concern. Neither does your Christmas Eve candlelight service.
Just as long as the people holding those candles, singing those songs and serving that soup do not get along with each other. Satan feels right at home in such a place.
But when your church carries out its ministries with a spirit of unity, even between the lady with the government job and the guy with the Come And Take It sticker on the back of his truck, all hell shudders in fear.
I think that’s because Christians working together for the glory of Jesus Christ remind Satan, ever so subtly, of the eternal terror that awaits him.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Philippians 2:1-2 (ESV)