Staying on the Ladder
Philippians 4:1, “Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.”
James 1:8, “A doubleminded man is unstable in all his ways.”
Last weekend some friends and I decorated our church sanctuary for Christmas. Three of us did the decorations on our twelve-foot Christmas tree, so we borrowed a ladder for our work. We took turns up on the ladder because all three of us had issues with it. I won’t tell on the others, but my issue is that I keep trying to spring up ladders like I did before I had chemotherapy and . . . well, my feet are still steady but I have some issues feeling where my feet are in space now. So, although I don’t fall, I sometimes freeze with that feeling that I am about to fall. Further, our ladder had lost a pad so it lurched a bit crazily from side to side, not in any dangerous way, but in what we called our own private earthquake!
Now it is obvious what a grace-based relationship does under those circumstances, isn’t it? We held the ladder for each other whenever anyone had to go up higher than normal or reach farther than normal. No one in a grace-based relationship would ever consider standing at the bottom and wildly shaking the ladder while someone is up on top of it.
The application I want to make to our life in the Body may have to come out in both a negative and a positive way here. I want to just state it in a positive way, because I am pretty sure we all know what the negative way looks like already, but I think I will have to show both ways to contrast them.
There is a behavior that happens all of the time out in the world and too much in the Body of Christ. It is what I call pouncing.
It involves a person being sized up by another person or persons, perhaps over a long period of time, but never with his knowledge. There then comes a moment when the person or persons who have been watching this person suddenly pounce on him out of the blue. The element of surprise seems to be key here.
There is almost a pride in catching the person off-guard, in shaking him off of that ladder. Because of the suddenness of this pouncing move, the person now needs to deal not only with the accusations that are launched at him (because pouncing never, ever involves commending a person for work well done, but rather an attempt to do the opposite), but also with the shock of realizing that a person or people he regarded as friends are maybe not exactly what he thought.
I am not going to analyze what motivates the pouncing. Probably different things at different times, but the motivation really doesn’t matter. It is sin and needs to be put off.
Grace-filled relationships are different. First of all, they would follow God’s pattern presented step-by-step in Matthew 18 to deal with a perceived sin by a brother. But secondly, they would probably not elevate most of the things that are pounced on into a conversation in the first place. I Peter 4:8 tells us, “And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” Love covers an offense, in the majority of cases. A very good reason for that is because most of what we, in our feeble flesh, regard as sins and personal affronts turn out to be personality differences and personal preferences, not sins at all.
When we consciously cover the things that we dislike about our brother or sister in Christ, we extend that person the grace to let him or her grow under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit instead of under the constraints of our own fallen hearts. And they do the same for us. Then a whole lot of growth can take place without any ladders being shaken at all!
Best of all, non-believers see our grace-based relationships and realize only God can build them. John 17:21 says, “That they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” That is key. Non-believers will believe that God sent Jesus to be the Savior when they see love and grace in our relationships as a unified Body of believers.