When I Was a Summer Camp Counselor
I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10
In the summer of 1991, I met my future wife while working as a counselor at a summer camp. This isn’t the how-we-met story though. This is about the campers at the most difficult week of our summer – the third and fourth grader week. My memory is that it was simply all chaos all the time. There were tears (of homesickness) at night, screaming all day (for unknown reasons), and no one listened to anything anyone said. Eight and nine-year-old brains just aren’t geared for organized behavior. It was like herding cats.
I could be wrong, but I’ve got to think God must feel a little like a cat shepherd at times. It’s got to be frustrating to try to get his church all going in the same direction at once. Often, our disagreements about carpet color or worship style derail us from unity, paralyzing us from ever getting around to the work the church is called to do.
The problem is that, in the grand scheme of things, we’re not all that different than those third and fourth graders at summer camp. We want what we want. We’re convinced we’re right – about everything. We think all of our opinions are absolutely true. And, we’re all headed in different directions.
To this chaos, Paul insisted that as members of the Body of Christ – Jesus’ presence here on Earth – we must be unified. I doubt that Paul meant that we must agree on everything, but there are major issues – brick wall issues – with which we build our church. This would include doctrines like One God, his son Jesus, a sacrificial death for sins, and salvation by faith alone. Then, there are minor issues – or picket fence issues – for which we may not live and die. This might include worship style, exact age of the Earth, and appropriate attire for Sundays.
The challenge is to differentiate between picket fence issues and brick wall issues. We must identify those absolute core beliefs. Then, when we come to a picket fence issue, we may need to let it slide. When we don’t agree on those brick wall issues though, we must stop and figure it out.
To this end, Paul insisted that we follow Christ. We’re not meant to follow Paul, a politician, or even a pastor above Christ. We must always strive to follow Christ above all. When the church truly follows him, we all go one direction, doing the work he called us to do. And that is a beautiful thing. Not at all like herding cats.
Full disclosure: I borrowed the brick wall/picket fence metaphor from Pastor Keith at the Willmar AG. He said he borrowed it from someone else though. Thanks Pastor Keith!