What comes to mind when you think of God’s work being derailed? Do you think of Satanic forces getting the upper hand? Do you think of angry mobs beating down the doors of churches and setting them on fire? Do you think to yourself, “It’s not possible to derail God’s work because is completely sovereign”? Romans 14:20 says simply, “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God.”
God is sovereign and his work cannot be thwarted ultimately. He who began a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:5). But we can align ourselves according to how God wants to work in peoples’ live or we can oppose it. To oppose this work of God there need not be hosts of demons or rampant persecution; all that is needed is for us to insist on our liberties at the expense of those weaker in faith.
God is doing a marvelous work in all our lives and he uses our church community. Rather than weak and strong consciences being a sideshow to the real work that God is doing, they are very much a part of it. Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrestled with this in his book, Life Together. He insisted that if we are going to about God’s work we need our ideal of the church submitted to the reality of the church.
Innumerable times a whole Christian community has broken down because it had sprung from a wish dream. The serious Christian, set down for the first time in a Christian community, is likely to bring with him a very definite idea of what Christian life together should be and to try to realize it. But God’s grace speedily shatters such dreams. Just as surely as God desires to lead us to a knowledge of genuine Christian fellowship, so surely we must be overwhelmed by a great disillusionment with others, with Christians in general, and, if we are fortunate, with ourselves.
By sheer grace, God will not permit us to live even for a brief period in a dream world. He does not abondon us to those rapturous experiences and lofty moods that come over us like a dream. God is not a God of the emotions but the God of truth. Only that fellowship which faces such disillusionment, with all its unhappy and ugly aspects, begins to be what it should be in God’s sight, begins to grasp in faith the promise that is given to it. The sooner this shock of disillusionment comes to an individual and to a community the better for both. A community which cannot bear and cannot survive such a crisis, which insists upon keeping its illusion when it should be shattered, permanently loses in that moment the promise of Christian community. Sooner or later it will collapse. Every human wish dream that is injected into the Christian community is a hindrance to genuine community and must be banished if genuine community is to survive. He who loves his dream of community more than the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial. (pp. 26-27).
May God help us to love our actual church more than the ideal. May he help us love our actual kids, our actual spouse, our actual co-workers, our actual family, our actual neighbors, the actual people who are lost more than our ideal of who or what they might be!