It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Two thousand years into our history, the church of Jesus Christ is vast and diverse. People all over the globe acknowledge Jesus as Lord, praying in a multitude of languages, worshiping in all sorts of styles, gathering in buildings ranging from bamboo huts to grand cathedrals. There are hundreds of denominations and faith traditions within the Christian world. In our nation, more than 350,000 individual congregations exist, each with its own history, tradition and culture. Added to the church’s great diversity is the complexity of human experience and emotion, plus humanity’s sinful tendencies. Taken all together, it’s no surprise we Christians don’t always agree on everything.
Even way back when, in the first generation of believers, Paul experienced the fragile, often faltering unity of the church. Fellow believers were taking advantage of his imprisonment, seeking to build up their own ministry or advance their own viewpoint during a time when Paul’s influence was greatly diminished. We can understand his frustration about those who preached Christ “out of selfish ambition.”
In many ways, times have not changed. Today’s church also has self-promoters and grandstanders. Some people insist their theological views are the only legitimate theological views. Some churches look at outreach as competition against other churches, pushing others down so they can rise up. We might feel frustrated by the signs of disunity we see in the church. I hope we can settle our hearts where the Spirit led Paul: to rejoice whenever and wherever Christ is preached. May Jesus’ church continue to grow and expand into all cultures, despite the failings of people like us.
Almighty God, thank You for Your church and for the good news of Jesus. Help me to love Your people and all that makes them unique. Bless Your church with wisdom, compassion, faith and joy. Help us to be a light in the darkness of this world. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.