I arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday afternoon and had a chance to do a bit of touring yesterday while getting to spend time with the couple who invited me here. What a great day! Saw lots of incredible palaces, cathedrals, parks, and monuments. I’m always amazed by such sights, what man can build and construct even 300+ years ago, but almost always by authoritarians indulging their own fantasies at the expense of the people. There’s a set of mixed emotions for you…
For the next three days we are going out to the countryside to meet with believers from this area and beyond who are in various places of learning to live loved and know who the Father is. I thought you’d enjoy reading something they have written about themselves. This is the group I’ll be spending time with here in Russia:
I thought the below might give you a beautiful glimpse into the heart of our gang. It’s a little hand out meant as a reminder to love and respect one another as we gather together….
We are very different!
Among us are those who worship in evangelical churches, and there are those who are more charismatic. Some meet Sunday morning in the walls of an Orthodox cathedral, and others in the Lutheran or Catholic sanctuaries. Some identify themselves as a church community, and others are together in home groups. We sing different songs, say different prayers…
We are so different!
But we have one Father, and we are brothers and sisters, so at our gathering, we will rejoice together in what unites us, and we will respect our differences.
We will appreciate (hey, let’s even celebrate!) the uniqueness of each person and their special relationship with our Father.
We respect the manner in which faith is expressed in one another, even if the form is different from that to which we are accustomed to.
We are indeed very different!
BUT…we have ONE Father who wants His children to love one another (Jn.13: 34.35) and be in unity with one another (John 17: 21).
God loves harmony not sameness. All of us in different places and sometimes by different means are learning what it is to know the Father through the work of Jesus and be transformed by it. If we could all embrace this reality the body of Christ would be a healthier family. We are all different, and we don’t have to be threatened by those differences, nor stake out a claim that our way of doing it is better than someone else’s.
Paul’s words in Romans 14 are powerful indeed. These are from THE MESSAGE translation:
Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. I’m convinced—Jesus convinced me!—that everything as it is in itself is holy. We, of course, by the way we treat it or talk about it, can contaminate it. (v 13-14)
So let’s agree to use all our energy in getting along with each other. Help others with encouraging words; don’t drag them down by finding fault. You’re certainly not going to permit an argument over what is served or not served at supper to wreck God’s work among you, are you? I said it before and I’ll say it again: All food is good, but it can turn bad if you use it badly, if you use it to trip others up and send them sprawling. When you sit down to a meal, your primary concern should not be to feed your own face but to share the life of Jesus. So be sensitive and courteous to the others who are eating. Don’t eat or say or do things that might interfere with the free exchange of love.
Cultivate your own relationship with God, but don’t impose it on others. (v 19-22)