Nik Ripken has been described as the world’s leading expert on the persecuted church in Muslim contexts. For six years, he led a ministry in Somaliland, in Africa, that daily fed 50,000 people. During that time, Nik became frustrated by the evil perpetrated by the people there against one another. He couldn’t understand how people could be from the same clan, even the same family, and readily turn on one another. Then, one of the locals told him a traditional Somali saying he had heard all his life: “I and Somaliland against the world; I and my clan against Somaliland; I and my family against my clan; I and my brother against my family; and I against my brother.” [Nik Ripken, The Insanity of God, B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN, 2013, pg 48]
That statement comes down to this: I will do whatever is necessary to be sure that, when everything is said and done, I win. I’ll stand with you, as long as it’s in my interest. But don’t cross me, or our relationship is done. In essence, it is saying that I am more important than everyone else.
When I first read that statement, I immediately thought of the implication for the Church. As Christians, we often are willing to stand together. Together, that is, unless you disagree with me about something. Then, rather than a member of the Body of Christ, now I am a Methodist or a Baptist or a Pentecostal or … whatever. I no longer see you as being on the same team. You have become my enemy.
The same thing happens in individual congregations. We stand together … until you don’t agree with me about something. When that happens, I vilify you. You have become my enemy.
I and the Church against the enemy; I and my denomination against the Church; I and my congregation against my denomination; I and by brother against my congregation; I against my brother.
It’s the same mindset that Nik Ripken found appalling in his work in Somaliland. And it’s apparent, from an honest look at Scripture, that God finds it appalling in His Church. We are not a bunch of individuals all just doing our own thing. We have been made one in Him “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.” (1 Corinthians 12:25)
What would happen, do you suppose, if we all really saw ourselves as – and acted like – the Body of Christ?