Wow. I knew it had been a long time since I wrote a blog…but almost TWO YEARS? My my. I’ve started about 10 blogs over these two years, but nothing has come to fruition. Writing is a labor of love, and for me demands a lot of energy as well as creativity. With the addition of our second child, Elijah Nash, to our family, my demands have definitely been elsewhere! Now that he is eight months old, sleeping and eating well, I’m sensing it’s time to once again labor over the words God puts on my heart in hopes that it might encourage and strengthen your walk with the Lord.
A prayer I’ve prayed a lot as of late is Ephesians 3:17-19 “… that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height–to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
The phrase that has struck me is “WITH ALL THE SAINTS.” With all the saints. When you stop to think about who “all the saints” are, it becomes clear that God wants to do something miraculous amongst His people. “All the saints” encompasses that believer you really struggle to be around because your personalities clash, it includes the believers in that church whose doctrine is very different from your own, it involves those weak in faith who you can barely tell are Christians yet the Lord sees the yes in their hearts, it includes those whose style of worship you don’t like, and it also comprises those whom you have regrettably lost relationship with because of misunderstandings. It involves the rich and poor, the strong and weak, educated, uneducated, American and every nation under the sun. When you really stop and think about who “all the saints” are and pay attention to your heart response to each individual or group, it becomes clear not only that God wants to do something miraculous with us, but also that we have to prepare our hearts to enter into this collective and corporate encounter of God’s love. We as individuals can enter into a measure of His love, but there is a greater revelation reserved for the collective body of Christ. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of comprehending the extent of His love with all the saints!
Paul was moved to pray for the unified comprehension of the love of God amongst believers in Ephesians 3:17-19 because he understood it is the Lord’s end goal for us, but we need prayer because we are so far from that reality! Jesus also prayed for all those who would believe in Him because what He desired would take the Father’s grace in each of us. Jesus did not merely want a bunch of individuals in heaven, but a unified, glorified body of believers who enter into the oneness of love He experiences with the Father and Holy Spirit. Before going to the cross, He prayed His hearts longing:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their [the disciples] word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one…Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory who You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”” John 17:20-21, 23a-24
The type of relationship Jesus desires for us as believers encompasses so much greater unity and oneness than what we experience today. His end goal for us is comprehending the vastness of His love together as one as He experiences the Father’s love with the Spirit. Wow! That is so powerful to think about, and it demands for us to change the way we think about the body of Christ. Seeking the Lord and following Him is not just about me and my relationship with Him, it is a corporate journey with those who call upon His name. And yet there is something that prevents this type of oneness from manifesting today: DIFFERENCES. There are so many differences amongst, “all the saints.” Often these differences create tension, tension creates conflict, and conflict creates offense which usually leads to division.
Biblically, differences are supposed to be a celebration of God’s unique design rather than a catalyst for separation. Paul uses the imagery of a physical body in 1 Corinthians 12 as an analogy of how we are to function as the spiritual body of Christ. Each member is made different, functions different, receives different, has different gifts to give, but those differences are not supposed to fracture the body, they are designed to allow each part of the body to give and receive, to be nourished and to nourish. As each part does what it is supposed to in connection to the head, Christ, it allows the other parts of the body to function properly as well. We each have an individual responsibility to love God and receive His love, and also to learn how to enter into the corporate body to learn how to give and receive so that the body can be properly nourished, edified, and strengthened. If we continue to focus more on our differences, annoyances and grievances, we will continue to be separated and at odds. The Lord has a better way for us.
Jeremiah Johnson, a prophetic voice in our nation, recently posted on Facebook, “You cannot receive from that which you do not honor.” In order for us to truly become one, a body properly functioning together, we need to learn to honor one another, to honor one another’s ministries– despite our differences. Where there is honor, we can receive from the other rather than reject the beauty of what they have to offer. Are there ministries that need areas of growth? Yes! Are their individuals who need to mature? Of course! We all do– ahem, I do. We are all on a journey. But the Lord’s desire is that we all mature, together, focusing our attention upon Him and extending honor to the other parts of the body. Every part of the body of Christ has insight and revelation of God the Father and Jesus because the Holy Spirit is in them teaching them these truths (John 16:13-14, 1 John 2:27). As I position myself to honor “all the saints” rather than see where we are different (and let’s be honest, perhaps where I think they are wrong!), I am now able to see the beauty God has put in them. We can now mutually edify and strengthen one another rather than tear one another down.
Of course there are times when separation is needed. Members or ministries who openly support immorality, idolatry and drunkenness are really separating themselves from Christ and the body. We are not to be united with that. But to those who are seeking after God’s glory, His holiness, righteousness and love, we are to learn how to nourish, strengthen and edify…not tear down. I believe that this is a necessary preparation for the ability for us to comprehend the vast expanse of God’s love together, as it says in Revelation 19:6-7:
“And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.”
There is one mighty voice thundering before God’s throne in the end. It is a multitude of voices from every tribe and tongue, people and language. It is ALL THE SAINTS lifting up their voices to create one voice of praise and honor to Him who delivered us out of the perils of this world. And note, we have made ourselves “ready”. There is preparation we as the Lamb’s wife enter into so that we are ready to not just love Jesus individually, but side by side, fully united and connected to the rest of the body, as one bride ready for her husband.
So today, just at Paul prayed, just as Jesus prayed, let’s contend for our hearts to connect with “all the saints,” that we may be one, that we may experience the greatness of the love of our Bridegroom God– together.