Oklahoma City. We will never be able to hear those words again without thinking of the carnage of April 19, 1995 - the day a terrorist bomb destroyed the Federal Building and 168 people who were in it. That day in Oklahoma City displayed the very worst in people - and the very best. That awful moment, pulled that community together in a way that it may never have been united before. I mean, all kinds of people threw themselves into the rescue effort - doctors, and nurses, and police, and firefighters, and everyday heroes, counselors, ministers, food suppliers. And someone wisely pointed out that suddenly white didn't matter, black didn't matter, Methodists didn't matter, Baptists didn't matter, old, young. There was one compelling need that had incredible power to erase all the categories.
Well, I'm Ron Hutchcraft and I want to have A Word With You today about "When Differences Don't Matter."
Our word for today from the Word of God comes from Philippians 1:27-28. You know, what suddenly pulls together people who usually work separately? Well, look at Oklahoma City. It's the realization that lives are at stake - that people will die if we don't work together. Turf doesn't matter when people are dying. Labels don't matter. The eternal tragedy of people dying spiritually isn't as easy to see as the devastation of a bomb blast, but it's every bit as real. And the way to rescue spiritually dying people who surround us is obvious. Here we go. Philippians 1:27 - "...stand firm in one Spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel, without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved, and that by God." God says, "I want you to fight the Gospel Battle as one man, in one Spirit."
If we begin to see the people around us as Jesus sees them, we will know they are dying inside without a Savior. And they will spend eternity without God unless we get to them in time. And then suddenly, the differences between Christians don't seem so important - only getting to those people. There's only one explanation for the competition and the categories between churches and organizations in your area. We must not really believe that getting to people with Jesus is life or death.
The situation of lost people is too desperate for us to be worrying about denominations, or who gets the credit, or different views of the ten percent that Christians disagree on. If lostness was not an eternal emergency, maybe we could afford to stay clustered in our individual rescue units. A lost world just doesn't understand why we can't get together. And if we don't, we will never get to enough people in time.
Let's start praying for the lost across the lines that have divided us. Let's plan together strategies to reach them. Let's work together out of a common broken heart for those who break the heart of Jesus.
That awful day in Oklahoma City - I cannot imagine the rescuers focusing most of their attention on the people who were already safe, and already well. Of course not. They focused everything on the dying. Well, I can't imagine them arguing over turf either. You see when lives are at stake, in this case for heaven and hell, the differences do not matter. Saving lives - together - is all that matters.