John 13:34-35 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” NIV
One wall. This, with its three towers, was all that remained of our beautiful sandcastle of the day before. As wave after wave of Lake Erie water relentlessly pounded against it, we couldn’t help but be amazed that it stood at all. Its brave stance, coupled with the special feelings that had accompanied its construction the day before, served as an inspiration to us: We would build another sandcastle! Only this time, we would place it far enough away from the lake that “Minus Tirith”, the name reserved for the new castle, would escape the fate of our first architectural accomplishment!
We quickly set to work, each of us taking responsibility for our own areas of specialty. First, Donovan, my oldest, helped me firm the wet sand into the castle bucket. Then he set to work digging a deep moat. Meanwhile, Darien, my youngest, put his heart and soul into building and reinforcing the walls, and I shaped the towers and laid the stones. Our experiences of the previous day made us “experts”, and in much less time than we had used the day before, our “Minus Tirith” stood in the sand.
As we stood back to admire the results of our cooperation, my sons encouraged me to get the camera. They wanted a picture of this new addition to the “Seven Wonders of the World”! So I dutifully hurried to the car for the camcorder. My wife, who quickly tires of sitting on beaches, used this as the perfect excuse to return to camp as well.
We weren’t gone long, for our camp was only a few feet from the beach, and as we started back, camera in hand, we heard shouting. My wife looked at me, and summing up 11 years of parental experience, she made a profound observation: “That sounds like OUR boys!”
Sure enough, it was Donovan’s voice we heard, screaming at the top of his lungs at his brother, while Darien jumped up and down on the sand where Donovan was working. Our two boys, who had worked together so perfectly to build the sandcastle, were fighting! An entire morning of working together in peace, ruined in just a few seconds. Why???
But before I could become too angry at them, the Holy Spirit was quick to remind me of how often I, too, allow conflict to take away long sought-after peace! I have learned (the hard way!) that the only peaceful solution is to let Jesus lead. As long as I am in charge, conflict is unavoidable.
As my wife ran ahead to try and stop them from strangling one another, I just stood back and watched. It was funny that they had waited until we left to fight. Of course, the reason why was obvious: When we were there, they didn’t dare bother each other, for they knew that this would have resulted in immediate and embarrassing punishment! But the moment we left, they no longer had this restraint. The fight on the beach happened because we were no longer there to oversee the peace!
In just the same way, disunity thrives in our churches because Jesus is not in our midst! All churches exist with the sole purpose of worshipping God and proclaiming the Good News brought by His Son Jesus Christ. But so often we are humanly swayed into making our own works more important than Jesus Himself. We so easily set our own agenda above God. We push Jesus out of the church, and just like children whose parents have stepped away, the natural result is disunity.
I like the way John the Baptist sees His role as a believer of the Messiah: John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” NKJV Shouldn’t this be our goal as well? If we let Jesus increase in us, the “I” naturally decreases. Without the “I”, everyone becomes focused on Jesus. And with everyone focused on Jesus, the natural result is that disunity disappears from our midst. The only way to resolve conflict is to put the focus away from ourselves and back on Jesus!
How do you want to build your sandcastle?
(To access the entire “Building a Fabulous Sandcastle” devotional series, please click here.)