Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Weeping For Disengaged Members

"He makes the whole body fit together perfectly.  As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love." ~Ephesians 4:16 (NLT)

While getting ready yesterday morning, I turned on the local news here in Dallas.  The first report I heard was of a local fireman that had been killed in an apartment fire in the early hours of the morning.  Stanley Wilson was a 28-year veteran of the Dallas Fire Department.  The raw emotions from those that were being interviewed had a way of reaching through the television and grabbing my heart.  His fellow firefighters were devastated.  They wept as they tried to give a report of what happened.  One of the fire chiefs mustered up the strength to do a press conference, and did it with tremendous strength, dignity and leadership...but his eyes showed the struggle within.  He mentioned that Stanley is leaving behind a wife and two teen-aged sons.  Again, the depth of grief and loss is overwhelming in this case.  As they carried Stanley's body from the rubble, the path from the building to the ambulance was lined with weeping firefighters standing shoulder-to-shoulder and saluting as he went by.  It was clear that Stanley was more than a team member to them.  He was a veteran member of their fire-fighting family.  He held a special place in their hearts and had special skill sets that they needed to function.  Now he is gone and a hole remains.

Immediately the Lord grabbed my attention by reminding me of Ephesians 4:16, that we are all members of the same body.  When one member is lost, the entire body suffers.  He brought to my mind the number of Christians that are lost from the Body for one reason or another.  Often times we fail to recognize the sense of loss and the gap that is created when we lose a member of the Body.  

We have our own special work that the Lord has given us.  When we do that work, we help other parts grow.  The body then functions as it should.  The sense of "family" is strengthened and relationships are formed.  Iron sharpens iron.  Love is shared.  We become each other's advocates.  We strengthen one another's weaknesses.  We fit together perfectly.  Together we share the love of Christ with the world around us.   

Losing a member is difficult.  It's almost too heavy to bear at times.  I have watched some go by in caskets and the grief ran deep.  The thought of not having them here with us is so hard to bear.  So many questions are asked.  "Why, God!?"  "Why now?"  "What are we supposed to do now?" "Couldn't You have stopped it!?"  "Where in the world are You in this!?" A desire to hear their voice or see their smiling face, just one more time, presses its way into our minds almost daily.  We grab on to memories, only to feel them slipping through our fingers after so many years. There's no way around it...Death. Is. Hard.  So we weep over our loss and cling to the hope of eternal life with them.  Praise the Lord that He is so faithful in filling the gap left by the lost member.  He is so good at filling it with just the right person, at just the right time.

Watching a member of the Body remove themselves from their place and walk away is also very difficult.  I have many names that I pray for that have walked away from being a functioning member of the Body of Christ.  Some were veteran members and found themselves trapped, as Stanley Wilson did. Sometimes our first reaction is to say, "Didn't you know better?  Didn't you see the trap coming?  You've been a Christian for over 20 years.  Don't you remember the Bible talking about the enemy prowling around like a lion to devour you?  Why didn't you stay alert?"  The reality of it is that sometimes we all get comfortable or make poor choices.  We've all found ourselves in a trap or two over the coarse of our Christian walk. (Let he without sin cast the first stone.) Maybe our trap didn't completely disengage us from the joints of the Body.  Maybe it simply paralyzed us for a moment or two.  Nonetheless, we have all let our brothers and sisters in Christ down by not being a properly functioning Christian.  We stalled the efforts of being a healthy, growing, full of love Body.

As the firemen wept with sorrow as their fallen member was carried away, we too should weep for those that have been carried away by the enemy.  There are so many non-functioning Christians in the world today.  People that were hurt by other people in the church and no longer trust other Christians.  There are others that are flat out angry at God and refuse to serve Him.  There are others that are just confused.  Others are beaten down by the storms of life.  Some have been carried away by their sin.  Sin that slowly engulfed them.  The list goes on and on of reasons as to why people get carried away or walk away from the Body of Christ.  I pray today that we will all feel a deep sense of loss for our fallen members.  That our hearts will be moved by compassion for them. May the Holy Spirit begin to bring them to the front of our minds so we can begin to pray for their return.  May He put them in our paths and may we show them the love of Christ when He does.  May we stand shoulder-to-shoulder and line their path back to the Body of Christ.

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