by Rebekah Curtis
Church is the home of the true family. It’s where we gather around our Father’s table. We see our brothers and sisters born from the font and welcome them in love. Church is our sanctuary from the brawling world, the embassy of heaven on this ruined earth. It sounds like a great place.
Too bad it doesn’t feel as great as it sounds. Everything would be fine if our blessed relatives would quit picking fights. Are they idiots or evil? We can’t know or get along. It’s pretty sad how they keep causing feuds like we see in that brawling world; sad how bad it’s gotten in the church.
The good and bad news is that this isn’t new. From her earliest days, the Church of God has been “by schisms rent asunder and heresies distressed.” Only a few years after Jesus’ ascension, Peter and Paul were leaders of a council in Jerusalem to resolve disagreements between Jewish and Gentile believers (Acts 15). But not long after that, Peter made a massive blunder, and Paul called him out for it in a big, loud way (Gal. 2:11-16). Yuck. What must people have thought?
Those outside the church watch our infighting “with a scornful wonder.” If Christians have it right, why can’t we agree about anything or obey our own rules? But in the tumult of our war, we see that we can’t blame everything on the world. Raise a child in a box where she never meets another person, and she will still grow up a sinner. Sin is within us, which is why God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. Righteousness and peace kiss each other in the Prince of Peace who is our righteousness.
So Peter and Paul, servants of this same Lord, either made their peace in history or had it made for them in Christian tradition. It doesn’t really matter which, because both of them remained in the faith and the service of the Church. Maybe they actively pursued reconciliation; maybe they stayed out of each other’s way. They didn’t have to be bros to be brothers in Christ. But since Scripture is free of any sniping, it seems these saintly guys remembered something from home: Being decent to a brother or sister—especially one you’re mad at—is really being good to Mom and Dad. There’s a lesson in there somewhere for people who are born from one font and call one God Father.