I’d like to tell you a story about two men.
The first man (we’ll call him Chris) was part of an association for business professionals that met regularly. This group had existed for a long time, and had worked hard at maintaining a certain professional atmosphere. In this group, a certain well-respected business leader was known for wearing red ties almost exclusively. One day it was announced that this business leader had passed away. As a tribute, the association decided that no members would wear a red tie at the next meeting. When the next meeting day arrived, Chris was flustered because he overslept (and hadn’t slept well) and completely forgot about the tribute. So when he arrives late to the meeting, everyone turns and behold: there is Chris… in a bright red tie.
Now, the second man (we’ll call him Tom), is a soldier on the front lines of a very prolonged battle. His unit had been together for years and been through a number of heated battles and torturous conditions. They held each other in wounds, protected each other’s backs from enemies, and shared each other’s meals. Then one day, during a particularly long and intense battle in horrible weather, Tom mistakes a friendly soldier for an enemy and shoots him.
Now, between these two scenarios, which man will experience more forgiveness and forbearance from those around him?
Would we not say Chris? After all, there have been many books and movies made about the types of bonds built in foxholes and difficult situations, but that’s not the sort of attitude we typically encounter in the business world (at least not in my experience). I believe it is safe to say that Chris will experience more disdain & rejection from his companions.
Why is this?
I believe that soldiers tend to be bound by action, sacrifice, & unified purpose. Foxhole bonds build because they have committed to bleed and die for each other and work toward the same goal. And the Bible is no stranger to this sort of bond.
In Philippians 1, Paul says that he has great affection for the Philippians… because he likes them and they have fun when they’re together? Because they gathered once a week and were members of the same association?
He said that they are companions who suffer with him, support him, and defend the Gospel alongside him despite the steep costs (1:5-7). They were true partners in the Gospel, foxhole companions who would bleed and die alongside Paul for the sake of the Gospel. This is a kind of bond that can’t be replicated by simple gatherings. It takes action, sacrifice, and common purpose.
Imagine if churches were dedicated to the Gospel with such seriousness and willingness to sacrifice. Do foxhole companions at war get caught up in petty issues during a battle? Not typically. No, they focus on the mission at hand and respect and trust each other because they have to. They are each expected to give everything for the sake of the mission.
So why do we think Christianity is any different?
If we truly believed that the Kingdom of Heaven was worth more than everything else (Matt. 13:44), and we were willing to leave everything behind for the sake of the mission at hand (Luke 14:25-33), I don’t think we would have nearly as many problems with unity in the church.
Just imagined it. What if your Christian Brothers & Sisters respected and took care of you and each other, carrying each other’s burdens, cared for the wounded and broken, carried those who were down, had each other’s backs like soldiers? What if they operated in their gifts like military specialists? What if they were willing to shed blood for the sake of each other and the Gospel?
It is Christ’s mission to make disciples of all nations that drives us to become a family that is stronger than blood (Matt. 12:48). It’s the weight of that unified purpose that diminishes pettiness. It’s the urgency of getting the Gospel to those who haven’t heard it that drives us to sacrifice. It’s the astounding mercy we’re constantly preaching and showing that humbles us enough to submit to one another in love (Ephesians 5:21). The Gospel creates in us a bond that is stronger and longer lasting than any we could experience here on Earth.
And making disciples is the mission that cements our souls together in love for one another and God.