Last week I was at a conference for pastors from our church association.
One of the pastors spoke from John 13. These were Jesus’ last words to the disciples before His death, a death which He knew was about to happen. One’s last words are sure to be important, if you know they will be your last.
So what does He say?
Among other things, He washes the disciples feet and tells them,
“Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them. …
34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Even as ministers of this gospel, serving this Lord who has shown and taught us how to serve and love one another, how easy it is to be wary, sceptical, envious, suspicious of our brothers from different church backgrounds to us. Clearly, there are important questions to be asked about how much we should partner with other churches in what activities if there are significant differences. But do we perhaps use that as an excuse to not engage with the issues or to keep our brothers at a safe distance?
Every church, even faithful ones, have their different strengths and weaknesses. We are supposed to be Christ’s Body, each limb with a different but important and indispensible role. Perhaps by learning from each other, we can benefit from another’s strength to alleviate our own weakness, and vice versa. Perhaps by fellowshipping with each other more, we can draw closer to what the Bible says rather than sticking with our own group who all agree with us. It’s uncomfortable and takes time. But perhaps that discomfort will refine us, and that time will be well spent.
After all, our own Master has given us the example and we are not greater than Him.
Please pray that the Japanese Church would be united across denominational barriers and that outsiders would recognise them as Jesus’ disciples by the love they have for each other.