It is not the usual and natural occurrence for people of opposite and varying perspectives, worldviews and circumstances to come together around an idea or event that is larger than their differences. Sometimes it happens in the midst of tragic circumstances where a larger common enemy is revealed – as in a Pearl Harbor or 9/11 event that draws disparate people together in a cause larger than their dissimilarities.
But imagine something so big and so good that it draws diverse people together. That is more difficult to find many examples. Everyone could agree that a perfect 79-degree sunny day at the beach is awesome, right? Probably not. Some would complain about the dirty sand, others would wish for winter and snow and a steep mountainside.
In search of a positive example, we might recall the Christmas Truce along the Western Front in World War 1 in 1914, where the two sides sang carols together, exchanged pleasantries and even engaged in some friendly sporting events. That stands out in history because it is so rare and unusual.
The one big idea that should be the biggest idea of all that brings differing people together is an accurate understanding of the gospel message – that we have all sinned and are condemned to separation eternally from God, but that by Christ’s work and grace alone we have been, through faith, brought back into eternal relationship with the Father.
This idea is so big that, as Paul begins in 1 Timothy 6, it should bring together even fellow Christians who are masters and slaves into a new relationship with each other …
6:1 – All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.2 Those who have believing masters should not show them disrespect just because they are fellow believers. Instead, they should serve them even better because their masters are dear to them as fellow believers and are devoted to the welfare of their slaves.
Paul did not upset the societal order of things, though he might have personally wished to do so. But the gospel message was bigger than that, and this truth is what he had been called into apostleship to proclaim. The relationship that masters and slaves had with each other as brothers in Christ was bigger than the social relationship that existed in that time. The masters needed to be truly and deeply devoted to the wellbeing of their slaves, while the servants needed to view their masters in a warm and kindly way. That’s a pretty big main idea!
And this big idea needed to be guarded carefully and taught accurately, so that wrongful responses did not eventuate from people who would use partial truths and twist meanings to their own personal gain …
These are the things you are to teach and insist on. 3 If anyone teaches otherwise and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 they are conceited and understand nothing. They have an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions 5 and constant friction between people of corrupt mind, who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.
20 Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to your care. Turn away from godless chatter and the opposing ideas of what is falsely called knowledge,21 which some have professed and in so doing have departed from the faith. Grace be with you all.
Over all of the centuries of the Christian church, there have been those who have taught error, often for their own gain financially or for glory in the eyes of others. A mark of these sorts of teachings is that they do not unite people whatsoever; they result rather in all sorts of strife and friction. These teachers always traffic is some sort of specialized and unique truth that only they have and understand.
If you are online at all, you surely have seen the common advertisements that hint about some heretofore unknown item that is actually being suppressed from general knowledge. It may say something like, “This one weird trick will cure your cancer” … or … “New miracle food reverses the effects of heart disease.”
That is how teachers of doctrinal error maneuver. They profess a unique teaching or twist upon the understanding of biblical truth that sets them apart in a rare and advanced group to be followed (bring your credit card).
In Paul’s day, one of these errant teachings involved what was called Gnosticism. Their favorite word was gnosis (knowledge – verse 20), and their teaching professed an educated understanding of words, mixed into a combination of Jewish, Greek, and Christian teachings that, in the end, was heretical and opposed to the true gospel.
This actual gospel truth was to be guarded by Timothy as a deposit – a word that could be used of a banking deposit of a valuable sum of money. The lexical definition is “a deposit, a trust or thing consigned to one’s faithful keeping.” What a great, pictorial word to speak of the Scripture and the role of the minister (or any faithful and educated follow of Christ) to follow!
Yes, the gospel truth is THE BIG IDEA that can bring people together in a new and unified relationship with one another that is bigger than race, social status, gender, age, background or heritage. I think we could really use a big idea like that in American right now!