By Johnnie Godwin
Contributing Columnist, B&R
When I grew up in West Texas, everyone knew what it meant for two people to get “crossways” with each other. They were at odds and headed in different directions. However, dictionaries tend to focus on the literal meanings of crossways [also means “crosswise”]. Very literally, “crossways” means to cut across something that is going in another direction. But when people are crossways or crosswise with each other, they’re out of sorts with each other; they’re at odds; they disagree with each other. And that causes conflict. If God wants anything for His church, He wants it to be unified, cohesive, of one mind, and growing to maturity in its head (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Experiences of seeing churches get crossways. Since I’ve attended most church services where I belong for the last 79 years, I’ve enjoyed seeing a lot of unity and growth and love in Christ. But I’ve also seen a lot of church members get crossways with each other. When church members get crossways, it always negatively affects the relationships and joy in a church. It’s time to meet, greet, repent, and get right with God and each other.
One of my early church pastorates had two men in it who were relatives but wouldn’t speak to each other. In fact, if they saw they were headed down the same aisle, they would turn and go another way. No one told me about that when I became pastor, but I couldn’t help notice. Soon an elderly deacon told me about a petty difference the two had over a piece of property. It had turned into a lifetime grudge. And it poisoned part of the joy and atmosphere of the church. I like to think that the two finally got reconciled in heaven because I know it wasn’t on earth.
Even apostles sometimes got crossways. The apostle Paul had been a strong and legalistic Pharisee. When he got saved, he wouldn’t cut any Christian folks slack over their sin or hypocrisy. Peter was the prince of apostles, but he had his faults too. Jesus gave Simon the nickname Peter (which meant rock in Greek, or Cephas for rock in Hebrew). Yet, Peter shook like jello once or twice. He denied Christ three times before the crucifixion. Still, Jesus gave him a chance to repent and get forgiven (John 21:15-17; Acts 2). Later, Paul himself got at odds with Peter and crossways with Barnabas.
Paul had good reason to chide Peter, which he did — and without compassion. God had led Peter to testify to Gentiles and to fellowship with them. That went fine until word got back to Jerusalem. That’s when men came down to check on Peter and the events that had occurred. Peter had testified to Gentiles all right and fellowshiped with them. It was later that he had hypocrited. Because Peter was afraid of what his fellow Jews would think about his fellowship with the Gentiles, Peter — at least temporarily — withdrew from fellowship and meals with the Gentiles. Time frames are difficult to know for sure. But whatever the time frame, the church in Jerusalem sent Paul and Barnabas to Antioch to check up on Peter and the Gentiles. Once there, Paul said about Peter, “I withstood him to the face because he was to be blamed” (Galatians 2:11). Paul counted himself chief of sinners. So his concern was not to ridicule Peter but to expose the sin of hypocrisy and focus on the great need for truth, righteousness, consistency, and repentance.
A cause for Paul and Barnabas to get crossways. Barnabas had been the door-opener for the converted Paul to get accepted by Christians he had earlier persecuted (Acts 9:27). Barnabas went to Tarsus to enlist Paul for missionary work (Acts 11:25-26). Then the church sent Paul and Barnabas out as a missionary team — two men as close as brothers (along with John Mark, Barnabas’ relative). But, alas, even brothers can get crossways. Paul and Barnabas had that happen. When Paul wanted Barnabas to go on another missionary trip with him to revisit the churches they founded earlier, Barnabas agreed. But he insisted on taking John Mark — who had deserted them at Pamphylia (Acts 13:13). Paul got crossways in a hurry over that (Acts 15:35-41). Barnabas wouldn’t yield, nor would Paul; so that was a deal-breaker! They separated. Barnabas took John Mark. Paul took Silas. However, later, Paul referred to Mark as having been profitable to him in the ministry (II Timothy 4:11); and Peter mentioned Mark as a son in the ministry (I Peter 5:13). So, along with Christians getting crossways, there is a hint reconciliation may have occurred.
God wants us aligned rather than crossways. Philippians 4:1-3 focuses on how Paul — who had been crossways with others — felt getting aligned in reconciliation with each other is God’s way for church members. In Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche had worked alongside Paul and others; but somehow these two women had gotten crossways with each other. Ironically, Euodia means fragrant and Syntyche means harmony. Yet, their relationship had gotten rotten and marked by discord. So what did Paul counsel? He wrote to a person named or nicknamed Syzygus (Philippians 4:3, The Message). He asked Syzygyus [yokefellow in the KJV] to help the two women get aligned with each other and reconciled from being crossways.
That plea is God’s will in Christ through His Word. And if we or our church members have gotten crossways, it is God’s will for us to get yoked back together in harmony for Him. I’ve made it a practice of my life to choose unity over crossways. And I haven’t been concerned much whether I was wronged or I had wronged someone else. Rather, I chose love, forgiveness, and unity as God’s way rather than the grinding discord of man’s way. May you choose to evaluate your life and relationships and overcome any problems of being crossways.
— Copyright 2016 by Johnnie C. Godwin. Write firstname.lastname@example.org.