Be Of The Same Mind: God’s Intention For Peace In His Church

If God says He hates something, is it a thing we should be doing in the church? Of course not! Those who love God do things that are pleasing in His sight (1 John 3:22). We don’t always do that perfectly, but it’s supposed to be our goal. And when we miss the mark, we repent and change and try again.

One of the things the Lord hates and considers an abomination is “he who sows discord among brothers” (Prov. 6:19, all scriptures in this post are WEB version). In Hebrew, “sow” is shalach (H7971), and it means to send out or shoot forth, as in a growing plant putting out leaves. God hates it when someone plants and spreads strife or contention (medan, H4090) among those who are metaphorical or literal family (ach, H251).

So what does it say about us as a church body when there are divisions, disagreements, and rifts in our relationships and beliefs? In some cases, we can disagree on things that are open to interpretation and still fellowship peaceably, which is the right thing to do (Rom. 14). But all too often, when people in the churches disagree they start attacking or ignoring each other rather than working through their issues, resolving doctrinal conflicts, and seeking peace and unity as God intends.

Be Of The Same Mind: God's Intention For Peace In His Church | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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Menary via Lightstock

Strife Does Not Come From God

The greatest commandments are to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love you neighbor as yourself. In contrast, strife is stirred up by hatred, not love (Prov. 10:12). And the people who spread strife are called perverse, lovers of disobedience, greedy, and angry (Prov. 16:28; 17:19; 28:25; 29:22). Those aren’t the sort of things God wants to see when He looks at the people in His chruch.

Now the deeds of the flesh are obvious, which are … hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, envy … of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s Kingdom. (Gal. 5:19-21)

More than half the things in this “works of the flesh” list have to do with discord and disunity. In contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is things like “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Those are the things that stop arguments before they even start.

This Goes Beyond Not Fighting

Scriptures make it quite clear that God puts a high value on peace. Though He warns us that following Him will set people against you (Matt. 10:34-36; John 15:18-21), there should be peace in the church among God’s people.

So then, let us follow after things which make for peace, and things by which we may build one another up. (Rom. 14:19)

On your part, you’re supposed to do what you can to live peacefully with everyone you meet (Rom. 12:18; Heb. 12:14). This is especially important in the church, where it’s an attainable goals because all the believers are supposed to be working toward peace (1 Thes. 5;13). God intends for there to be unity in His church. Read more

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What’s The Church Supposed To Do?

If you ask the church that I’ve spent most of my life in what their mission is they have a ready answer: preaching the gospel and preparing a people. I can’t speak for your churches, but I imagine many (perhaps even most) of them would also point to some version of what we call The Great Commission as their mission statement.

Jesus came to them and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I commanded you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20, WEB)

Is this a commission? yes, it’s “an instruction, command, or duty given to … group of people.” Is it great? since it came from Jesus and involves a responsibility given His disciples, yes. But is it really meant as the defining mission statement for the entire church from Jesus’ resurrection to His return? I’m not so sure.

What's The Church Supposed To Do? Looking At Scriptural Mission Statements For People Following Jesus | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: Pearl via Lightstock

A Sobering Warning

The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were the group He spent the most time criticizing and correcting. They professed to follow God’s highest standards but were in reality hypocrites. They did righteous looking things just to get attention (Matt. 23:5). They went to great lengths to convert people only to pervert their faith (Matt. 23:15). They placed too high an emphasis on money received as tithes and offerings (Matt. 23:16-19). They neglected the “weighty matters” of God’s law and instead followed their own traditions. They even turned the temple itself into a marketplace where they exploited people coming to worship God (John 2:14-16).

The scary thing is, these people honestly thought they were the most righteous God-followers out there. That serves as a warning today that church leaders and organizations have to be very careful where they place their focus. And so do we as individual members of Christ’s body.

A Greater “Commission”

We certainly shouldn’t ignore Christ’s instruction to go, disciple, baptize, and teach. But we need to make sure we’re thinking of that command from Matthew 28 in its proper context. Because there are two other commissions that Jesus plainly told us are His greatest commands. Read more

Clean Temples For Yom Kippur

Back in the Old Testament when there was a tabernacle or temple standing, it included a room called “the most holy place” or “the holy of holies.” This was where the ark of the covenant was and a heavy veil separated it from the rest of the inner temple. It wasn’t a place that people, even the priests, could just walk into.

and Yahweh said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother, not to come at all times into the Most Holy Place within the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark; lest he die: for I will appear in the cloud on the mercy seat. (Lev. 16:2, WEB)

The only time someone could enter this most holy place was on the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur. Even then only the high priest could go in and only if he followed the proper rules for entering a place God had sanctified.

Clean Temples For Yom Kippur | marissabaker.wordpress.com
Photo credit: “Clean” by Sara Laval, CC BY via Flickr

But why bring this up now? We don’t have a temple or a priesthood or sacrifices anymore. And many Christians will say all that Old Testament stuff belong in the past. Or does it? There actually is a temple today, for “you are a temple of God” (1 Cor. 3:16, WEB). There’s a priesthood, too, because Jesus Christ is the High Priest and He has “an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb. 7:24, KJV). We’re even included in that because we’re meant “to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (1 Pet. 2:5, WEB). So given these facts, what can we learn from Yom Kippur today?

Temples Defiled By Association

When I was re-reading Leviticus 16, I was surprised to notice that the high priest was told to “make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, even all their sins” (Lev. 16:16, 33 WEB). I knew he was to make atonement for himself and “all the assembly of Israel,” but hadn’t noticed the holy place needed atoned for as well (Lev. 16:17, 30). There was something about being in the midst of an unclean, sinful people that defiled even the part of the temple where God’s presence appeared.

Today, the church body is described as a temple of God (there’s also a temple talked about in heaven, which we’ll get to later). The Greek word used in those passages is always naos (G3485), which refers to the inner sanctuary rather than the entire temple complex (which would be hieron, G2411). We are now God’s most holy place. And like the other holy of holies, we can become defiled by choice (see 1 Cor. 3:16-17) or by the sinful world around us. Read more

To Seek And Search Out By Wisdom: INTP Christians

I started my project about Christians of different Myers Briggs types because of comments I’ve received from INTP Christians. INTPs are often stereotyped as the “least religious type” and hearing from so many INTPs made me curious about how different types approach their faith. And so I’m very excited to share this post where we dive-into the perspective of INTP Christians.

This is the fourth post in a series talking with Christians of different personality types. When you start discussing faith with different people of different types, you notice not all the personalities feel equally valued and understood in Christian churches. If Christianity is a faith meant for all people why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting with all personality types?

Our walks with God don’t all look the same. We’re influenced by our backgrounds, variations in beliefs, and individual personalities. And even though the goal is for us all to become “like God,” that doesn’t mean we become indistinguishable from each other. God created great variety in people and I believe He did that for a reason. So let’s spend today’s post hearing from and talking about the unique perspectives of INTP Christians. I also want to take a moment to thank the five INTPs who got in touch with me, shared their perspectives, and let me quote them.To Seek And Search Out By Wisdom: INTP Christians | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Identifying With Bible Characters

The first question I asked people was which Bible characters and/or stories they identified with most. The INTPs’ choices reflect highly individual thought processes and ways of relating to the Bible. The only overlap is that several INTPs explain their choices by saying they personally identify with an aspect of their chosen character’s story.

Meredith says she relates to Moses not wanting to confront Pharaoh “probably because he didn’t want to come across as stupid and weak,” “to Asa, doing good stuff and being devoted for a while, and then pouting at God’s disciplinary measures when I messed up,” and to Solomon, who “was a very intellectual person.” Anonymous commenter kittyess also mentioned Solomon, but in her case it’s because he was “struggling with the apparent meaninglessness of life yet trying to find joy and contentment in life through God.” The fact that two INTPs mentioned Solomon, together with this type’s interest in digging down to the truth of the matter, is the reason I chose a quote from Ecclesiastes for this post’s title. Read more

Is Your Church The Same As God’s Church?

How do you define “church”? A building where Christians worship, the clergy of a religious body, all the believers in a religion, a specific denomination, a public worship gathering — those are all definitions we use in the English language. If we say we “go to church,” we either mean the building or the service. If we say of a group, “this is my church,” we’re generally telling people which denomination we’re part of. If we say someone chose the church as a career path, we mean they went into the clergy.

But those definitions don’t really get at what “church” means in the Bible. In fact, the only part of our English definition that overlaps with the Greek word’s definition is “the whole body of Christians” (Merriam-Webster 3a). And because there’s such a difference, I think it’s important to look at what the New Testament writers were talking about when they discussed the church. We want to learn about how God sees His church, not just how human beings define it today.

Called Out Ones

In the New Testament, “church” is translated from ekklesia (G1577). It’s a compound word that literally means a “calling out” (Strong’s Dictionary). In general, it’s used of a “gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place.” In the church-specific sense, it’s “an assembly of Christians” that gathers in a specific place or “the whole body of Christians scattered throughout the earth” (Thayer’s Dictionary). Read more

That Which Every Joint Supplies: INFP Christians

This is my third post in a series about Christians of different Myers-Briggs types. When you start talking with people in the churches, it quickly becomes clear that while we share a common faith there is quite a variety among us as well. Some of that has to do with background, some with the denomination we’re part (or not part) of, and some with personality. And if we want our churches to be a welcoming place for all people who seek to know Jesus, it’s a good idea for us to understand how different personality types relate to their faith.

Our walks with God don’t all look the same. We’re influenced by our backgrounds, variations in beliefs, and individual personalities. And even though the goal is for us all to become “like God,” that doesn’t mean we become indistinguishable from each other. God created great variety in people and I believe He did that for a reason. So let’s spend today’s post hearing from and talking about the unique perspectives of INFP Christians.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com

I heard from five INFPs who responded to most of the questions I asked. In general, INFPs are private people and I’m not surprised that the response rate was lower than what I saw for the INFJ post and the ENFP post I wrote earlier. One INFP who I talked with in-person said she wouldn’t feel comfortable submitting even an anonymous response. Still, I hope any INFP Christians reading this post will feel safe commenting and adding their thoughts to the conversation. I’d love to hear from more of you!

Bible Favorites

The first question I asked people was which Bible stories and characters they identified with most. There was very little overlap in specific characters INFPs chose as their favorites, though several of the chosen characters were prophets.

  • Patricia identifies most “with Jesus’ disciples Paul and John in the New Testament because they show both the values-driven determination and authenticity of my INFP personality.”
  • Boniface writes, “I suppose Isaiah, or Mary? perhaps Luke.”
  • Heather says, “I gravitate to Isaiah, Elijah and David because their styles resonate with some aspect of me. I find their deep convictions, poetry and symbolism moving and very applicable. I have always identified with the story of the woman who washed Jesus feet with her hair.”
  • Dara chose a rather unexpected character: “As weird as it sounds, the character I totally relate to the most is Gomer in the book of Hosea. She never realized what she had, messed it up multiple times, and still received unconditional love.”
  • Brian writes, “I love Enoch and Elijah because I am always baffled by the fact that they were taken up and allowing them to avoid death. I always ask myself. What did they do that God just wanted them. I know we an read more on Elijah than Enoch but these two are very interesting to me. I can’t say I really have a favorite. I find interest in a few that aren’t really talked about. Lazarus being one of them. How deep was his relationship with Jesus. Jeremiah. How did he endure all those years telling Israel to turn from their ways.
    I think though. From very little. The prophets have grabbed my attention the most.”

Brian is also the first person I’ve heard from who had an easier time picking out favorite books than favorite characters. He writes, “My all time favorite books for sure are Proverbs and Revelations. Definitely the wisdom books and the books of prophecy. But those two are my favorite. Proverbs cause I can just find so much to apply to my life to grow inside as a person, mentally, spiritually, intellectually. … Revelations for its lively metaphorical (or real) descriptions of whats to come, celestial, and spiritual beings. It paints such wonderful pictures for me that really differ from reality (our reality) and it fascinates me. My friends are personally scared of this book in particular and I can see why but its such a mysterious frighting window that I love to peak through.”

Gifts and Talents

On the whole, INFPs don’t seem quite as worried about finding their particular niche in the church as other types I’ve talked with do. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that Introverted Feeling is their “driver” process. Also called “Authenticity,” this mental process is more concerned with staying true to one’s own convictions than meeting outside expectations. Perhaps if INFPs believe they understand how they best fit into Christ’s body they don’t feel so much pressure to discover how others think they’re “supposed” to fit in.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comHeather writes, “No, I do not feel under appreciated. I feel that I am needed in the body in the same way that my neighbor is.” She also talked about each of us having “different functions” in the body and didn’t seem worried that her particular gifts would be overlooked. Similarly, Boniface, a Benedictine monk, wrote that he didn’t really feel like he was missing opportunities to use his gifts and talents because “God finds a way.”

Dara and Brian both talked about using creative talents in their churches. Dara sings and Brian is an artist. Brian’s main frustration in the area of gifts and talents is feeling that “the arts and creativity isn’t very, not accepted but looked at as an essential gift in my church.” He wishes more people would realize that all the arts require “a lot of thought, set up, and practice.”

Patricia and Boniface both mentioned teaching and prayer as talents they have an opportunity to use in the church. And though Patricia is reluctant “to get involved in the planning or carrying out of church activities because of past negative experiences with church politics,” she feels that being an introvert and an intuitive “helps with evangelism. I feel like I can predict how a non-believer would respond to God, and how God would move in his or her life if given the chance.”

Connecting With The Church

Two INFPs mentioned that the expectation to be “outgoing and socially active” is draining for introverts. But by and large, the INFPs I talked with didn’t have complains about the church not being a good fit for them. In fact, Heather wrote, “I think the church, is about being members of the body each intentionally having different functions. …  I don’t think the church needs to conform to my personality preferences.” This is a common theme among INFPs. They don’t feel that it’s the church’s responsibility to “make room” for them. That’s why I chose Ephesians 4:16 as the title scripture for this post. INFPs truly believe that the church needs every member and they seek to find their authentic role as one member of Christ’s body.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comWhen asked how the church could better connect with someone like you when preaching the gospel, Boniface wrote, “Not sure. I think it does a pretty good job already.” Patricia elaborated, saying, “I don’t think that the church needs to make an effort to connect with me, but that is my personal responsibility as a Christian to make an effort to connect with the church, imperfect and diverse as it is.” Wow. If more of us had that attitude, I doubt we’d have so many people feeling alone in their churches.

As for connecting with non-believers, Patricia writes, “I think that this is the strength of having diverse church members who can, in their own way, share God’s love with others.” I’ll whole-heartedly second that opinion. It’s one of the reasons I started this series — to help draw attention to how good it can be to have a personality-diverse church where everyone’s unique gifts are appreciated.

Giving INFPs Space

Just because INFPs feel it’s their responsibility to connect with the church doesn’t mean the church shouldn’t also work on making itself a welcoming place for INFPs. God has created great variety in people and encourages a diversity of gifts and talents in the church, so we should as well.

INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.comLike most introverts, INFPs feel most comfortable at churches that give them space for reflection and time to learn on their own. Patricia and Brian both mentioned that they learn about God’s word best when they’re reading alone. When they do come together with other believers, INFPs tend to prefer quiet settings. Two INFPs who wrote to me talked about enjoying quiet prayer time and the music service best. Another said he would prefer to have “more strict rules on the respect the house of the Lord needs. No phones, and no talking.”

Boniface specifically mentioned that “aggressive, in-your-face preaching” is not a good way to reach INFPs. Brian also said, “I love a preacher that isn’t screaming the word into my ears,” but added “I think as long as the preacher is anointed by the spirit, the spirit will call my spirit.” INFPs tend to have preferences for a certain type of church service, but they’re also open to learning from any teacher who seems to be sincerely following God.

Fighting For The Faith

Everyone who’s a Christian faces challenges as they try to follow Jesus. Only four INFPs responded to this question so I hesitate to make any broad generalizations for the whole personality type. However, three of those four mentioned some kind of disconnect from God as a struggle (the fourth mentioned socialization with people in their age group, a fairly common challenge for introverts like us).

Boniface writes that “being faithful” is his biggest challenge as a Christian. Patricia says, “When I go through bouts of depression in response to stress in my life, I lose sight of who God is (God’s continual provision for me, and the hope that He gives me simply from being present). I do not become angry at Him, or unaware of His presence, but I become distracted and confused in my own negative feelings.” And Brian mentioned that he deeply identifies with Paul’s struggle in Romans 7:15-20.

Brian also added another challenge, saying he has difficulty spontaneously talking with someone about the gospel. He writes, “I would love to tell everyone but don’t want to seem like I’m forcing anything down. I respect people and their current beliefs, but I feel like the times we are in today don’t allow for much growing in what is correct. It’s more of a ‘live, and let live’ sort of moto for the world now and no one really wants to be told they’re wrong.” That’s something I’ve struggled with, too — finding the confidence to stand up for your belief in God’s truth in a way that connects with people rather than driving them away.INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Why They’re Christian

For all the posts in this series, I’m not going to try and fit the answers to “Why are you a Christian?” into a few neat paragraphs. Rather, I’m quoting from each of the people who responded to my original post so they can tell you about their faith in their own words:

  • Patricia: I think that there are many factors affecting my growth as a Christian (supportive parents, Christian friends, living in a country with freedom of religious expression), but as for why I am one in the first place – it is hard for me to say. I can relive the events almost a decade ago that lead to me praying for God to be a part of my life, and the resolve I felt afterwards to commit myself to him, but that circumstance then was not the reason why I am a Christian today (in a similar way in which simply being born into a culturally Christian family does not make an individual child a Christian). A Christian is someone who has the Holy Spirit living inside of them and working in their lives. I know that I am one (perhaps intuitively), and maybe a sensor or thinker could point how it plays out in my life tangibly, but I don’t pay attention to that. I just trust in God’s sovereignty, and carry on with my life, with hope that He knows best for me, and thankfulness that He is a part of my life.INFP - Join me for a blog series discussing Christianity from the perspectives of different personality types. | marissabaker.wordpress.com
  • Dara: Science. Everything points to creation, despite what the world says. Furthermore, I’ve met God, and he’s met me in my darkest moments.
  • Brian: I was just listening to a teaching on this today actually. I agreed with all of it. I cannot NOT believe after what I have been taught and read myself. After questioning and doubting God and God revealing himself to me in many ways. I love him because he first chose me, and if he first chose me then what “choice” do I have against that.
    Simply, I believe, because he has called me to believe.
  • Boniface: History of the Church and its survival and growth in every century. Despite every human weakness and sin. My own experience of encountering good Christians, and through them coming to know the Lord.

Your turn! If you want to share your Christian INFP story or talk about INFPs in the churches, comment here! And if you’re a different personality type looking to contribute an upcoming blog post in this series contact me or head over to the original post. I’d love to feature you! Please note: unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll assume that by getting in touch you agree I can quote you directly and credit you by first name (or screen name) and Myers-Briggs type in future projects.Send Me Your Stories: Christianity and MBTI Types | marissabaker.wordpress.com

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