The Principle of the Spirit

I am in South Africa with a team of teacher/facilitators from our ministry, teaching “Five Principles of Unity” in churches there.  Look here for our schedule and how you can be praying for us.  Here is some of what we are teaching:

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples… As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. Acts 9:1, 3-5

The Principle of the Spirit: There is only one head of the church and He is in us all.

That Christ indwells every believer should change some things about how I see myself and how I see other believers.  It should change the way I listen to other believers and it should change the way I treat them.  Paul, who had busied himself with throwing Christian men and women into prison and persecuting people who were followers of “the way”, learned this lesson the hard way.

He saw the threat posed by this band of rebels who had been disciples of Jesus.  He recognized the damage they were doing to his church.  He saw the potential damage yet to come, and he responded.

But haven’t you done the same thing?  Haven’t you ever felt the need to “protect your church” by being mean and ugly to someone?  That’s all Saul (Paul) was doing…protecting his church.  The problem, of course, is this: when we perceive that our church is at stake, hasn’t history proven that we (Christians) are capable of all manner of bad behavior (ever heard of the Spanish Inquisition)?  When we have demonized a person to the point that we now believe he/she is a threat to the church, and when we take it upon ourselves to be the defender of Christ’s church, we are only one very tiny step away from inflicting great pain and doing great harm to other Christians. And before we know it, we are not only persecuting those other Christians, but we are persecuting Christ in them.

It had to have struck Paul funny that, though he had been persecuting “Christians”, Jesus was now telling him he had been persecuting Jesus Himself.  It is surely a devastating realization when we come to it…when we have our Spiritual eyes opened to the harm we have caused Christ by the pain we have inflicted on others.  It is kind of the extreme opposite of Jesus saying, “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Isn’t it likewise true that whatever we do TO other Christians, we do TO Christ?  This notion of Christ living in other believers, well, it changes some things doesn’t it?

So next time you see someone ready to engage in battle in order to save the church (because surely Christ isn’t big enough to protect His church without our help), will you find a way to tell them that the shots they are firing are hitting more than just other people…they are hitting Christ.

© Blake Coffee

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