A friend sent me the following email asking for my editing thoughts:
Wow! Do you hear the sound of dry bones rattling? I write this just before the election on November 3rd. As you are reading this, we have just experienced the most contentious election cycle of our lives, are in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and are struggling to define and address both the racial sins of our past and any remaining division and disparities of the present. We need to seek God today, while it is called today! We all know the passage: 2 Chronicles 7:14, “If my people who are called by name will humble themselves and pray, seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and turn and heal their land.” Amazing passage.
However, what happened just after that passage in Israel is tragic. Solomon’s heart, whom God blessed with both wisdom, wealth, and power, who had built the magnificent Jerusalem Temple,… that same Solomon’s heart was led astray by his wives and their false gods. The same king, to whom God gave that magnificent promise of restoration and healing… not even a generation passed before he walked away from God. As a result, the kingdom was torn in two. Divided in two. For over 470 years. No reconciliation before Babylon’s captivity.
Division and idolatry marked much of the next 400 years. The northern 10 tribes, often called Joseph, NEVER recovered from idolatry, produced Ahab and Jezebel, and within 250 years were taken captive by Assyria. Judah, the other two tribes, on three occasions (Jehoshaphat, Hezekiah, Josiah), had 2 Chronicles 7:14 type revivals. But, after 400 years, they too were judged and taken captive by Babylon. That Division is what stands out now, relevant to the USA in 2020. Solomon’s idolatry led to enduring division, more idolatry and ultimately judgment. What has led to the division in the body of Christ today?
Which leads us back to the valley of Dry Bones in Ezekiel 47. Ezekiel heard the sound of dry bones rattling! He prophesied those bones back to life, standing up with flesh on the bone: The resurrection of Israel. Exciting! But the second half of Ezekiel 47 is more important to us. Ezekiel is told to take two sticks, label them Judah and Joseph, and hold them together in his hands. Why? Israel didn’t just need the dry bones to come to life, they needed the DIVISION brought by Solomon’s idolatry to be healed. Judah and Joseph needed a miracle; they needed to come back together. They needed ONE king and ONE Shepherd; God’s full restoration for Israel.
That is the restoration we need in the church of the USA today. History has left our unity in Christ, around the cross, His Word and Gospel, frayed. Revival without healing between black and white, or despite political parties, or other divisions, is not enough. Like Pentecost, the church isn’t the church unless we are full of the Holy Spirit, speaking in all the tongues, to all the cultures. Remember! God, in Christ, took the sticks of Jew/Gentile, Male/Female, Greek/slave/free and held them together in His hand. We have One King and One Shepherd. Not just a unified Israel, but, in Christ, a unified church across all cultures and, ultimately, the only hope for unified humanity.
So, let us pray together for strength and wisdom to “keep the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace.” There is One Spirit, One Lord, One baptism, One God and Father of us all who works all things in all men (Eph 4, 1 Cor 12, Rom. 12). Jesus prayed this: John 17:21, “Father, I pray that they may be one, that the world will know that You sent me.” Lord, make us peacemakers and ministers of reconciliation, according Christ’s righteousness and salvation, reconciling men to God in Christ, and keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Creation groans for the revelation of the sons of God. (Rom 12). The Spirit intercedes with groans that words can’t express. Let us pray! That God’s healing power would flow from the church and Christ’s cross out into all of our Frederick community.
Among the things I said in reply were these words:
I’m probably not the best person to help with the edit. There’s an implicit assumption undergirding the context, and it’s just not an assumption that matches where I am. Obviously others are not in agreement with me, but I’m pretty convinced that I’m mostly correct, even as I work to eliminate remaining blind spots.
So, little things like using the word “racial” troubles me because it assumes the problem is between competing races, when there is but one race. I’m similarly not comfortable with any assumption that “disparities” are a problem, given that they will always be part of reality as God Himself brings about disparities.
Similar to this is the word “division”. There is an achieved unity in Christ. This is a foundational truth for me in my understanding of the Gospel. So, any division that exists is brought about by attitudes and activities that are not “in Christ”. The Son of Man Himself brings this sort of division. So, again, I don’t assume division is bad, but rather am convicted that it is important for clarifying attitudes/activities which align with Christ and those that do not. We do not need our division healed; we need our commitment to the Truth of God’s Word reinforced, as those of us who have turned our back on biblical standards for guidance fall on our knees in repentance.
In other words, I don’t see the unity of Christ’s body frayed. I see too many people professing to be included with the bride as unfaithful to the headship of the Bridegroom. And I don’t see an ultimate unity awaiting all of humanity, for what it’s worth. A remnant will be united forever, of course, but this remnant is going to be separated from the rebellious for eternity.
Believers are called to be one, to be sure. But this oneness is found only in faithful devotion to Christ’s teaching. If there is disunity among those in the visible church, it is only because at least some (if not all) are adulterously chasing after idols of our own invention.
We need a call to righteousness that’s grounded firmly and only in what we find fully and sufficiently within the pages of God’s written revelation of Himself. If there continue to be men and women claiming Christ while at the same time contradicting the revelation of Christ, then I pray for persistent and winnowing division. And this is a prayer I know will be answered because this is, in fact, a promise from God. He does and will continue to separate the wheat from the chaff.
The present fight is not between those who should merely agree to disagree. The present fight is between those armed to advance the true Gospel and those hoodwinked (or perhaps even devilishly motivated) to advocate for a counterfeit message (one that can sometimes sound good on the surface, but results in only destruction and death).
Sorry if this isn’t helpful. But this is a momentous spiritual war, and compromise strikes me as nothing more than lukewarm wavering. I grant that I am rather hardcore about this. I think I’m supposed to be.
-Pastor Troy Skinner