"God, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change..."
I have to accept that I'm not in control. As much as I wish I could, I cannot put an end to evil and foolishness.
I (alone) cannot prevent the staggering increase in human trafficking and pornographic material, and the resulting psychological toll that it takes on both victims and participants.
I (alone) cannot prevent the growing divide between haves and have-nots due to crony capitalism, nor can I prevent progressives from trying to turn my nation into another failed experiment in socialism.
I have to recognize these and many other unsavory things as unavoidable realities, battlefields within the spiritual war raging around us. I certainly don't have to like it, but I have come to terms with it, and concede that the world isn't mine to direct (and it never will be). At the moment, most of this world belongs to God's adversaries (Matt. 4:8-9). The day is coming when Elohiym will take back control and set things right, but that time is not yet.
One of the things that has been difficult for me to accept is division within the Assembly of Messiah. The Adversary is doing a spectacular job of driving wedges between members of the Ekklesia, getting people to prioritize non-essential doctrines over relationships. This is nothing new, but boy have I seen a lot of it in my online communities as of late.
Scripture compares believers to body parts. All of the parts of a body must be united and working together in order for the whole organism to function properly. How much more difficult would your life become if you suddenly lost your feet, or your hands, or your eyes, or your ears? Not to mention crucial parts like your lungs, or kidneys, or heart. At best, your efforts in the physical world would be hindered; at worst, you'd be dead and unable to affect any change whatsoever.
Don't get me wrong: some issues are legitimately worth breaking fellowship (1 Cor. 11:19). In fact, the Bible commands that we shun brethren who won't adhere to the basics of the Faith. We must not associate with those who, for instance, sin unapologetically (1 Cor. 5:11-13; 1 Tim. 5:20), create strife (2 Thes. 3:14-15; Rom. 16:17-18), or deny that Yeshua is Messiah (1 John 2:22-23; 2 Pet. 2:1). That's division of a healthy kind, like excising a malignant tumor.
But that's not what I've been seeing, for the most part. What I see at every turn are believers who point their fingers and scream "Heretic!" upon spotting the slightest difference of opinion in matters of theology. I see mountains being made out of mole hills.
This, despite the pleas for unity from our Lord and his apostles:
Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. (John 17:20-21)
Make my joy full by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Php. 2:2)
Now I beg you, brothers, through the name of our Lord, Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Cor. 1:10)
Despite popular opinion, you don't have to pronounce the name of the Lord a particular way in order to be his servant (hint: no one can prove which pronunciation is correct). You don't have to observe a particular interpretation of Yah's calendar in order to have fellowship with Yah's people (hint: good scholars disagree on exactly when the year starts, when the month starts, and when the day starts). You don't have to believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all one entity in order to walk alongside those who do (hint: whether God is triune or not makes no practical difference to your life, so long as you recognize Yeshua as Lord).
And, finally, you don't have to keep the Sabbaths or the dietary laws in order to respect your brothers and sisters who do (hint: few of us are doing so in a vain attempt to gain salvation).
There are a hundred other contentious subjects that I could list here, from the timing of the Rapture to the identity of the Bride of Christ, but you get the point.
I'm not saying that we all need to be best friends, but we need to cooperate in general. We need open lines of communication, and coordinated efforts in evangelism, social justice ministries, media production, etc. We can do big things if we work together.
Maintaining unity is easier said than done, you might object. And to that I say: of course it's not easy! It's extremely difficult! But all things are possible with Christ.
Or do you not believe that the Spirit of God dwelling within you will empower you to do what the Lord asks? Factions are the result of people walking by the flesh, not by the Spirit. To wit:
You are still fleshly. For insofar as there is jealousy, strife, and factions among you, aren’t you fleshly, and don’t you walk in the ways of men? (1 Cor. 3:3)
...[operate] in humility, each counting others better than himself. (Php. 2:3)
I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to walk worthily of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and humility, with patience, bearing with one another in love; being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph. 4:1-3)
To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? (1 Cor. 6:7)
Put on therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, humility, and perseverance; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, if any man has a complaint against any; even as Christ forgave you, so you also do. (Col. 3:12-13)
What did you learn? I hope you learned that we must leave no place for pride, and make a vast place in our hearts for patience. We must embrace self-sacrifice. We must have so much love for our brethren—even those that offend us or interpret the Bible differently than us—that we chose forbearance over indignation.
Long-suffering is key. Does anyone do that any more? We must suffer for the sake of shalom. Almost no one is willing to wade through the discomfort of an interpersonal conflict with brethren in order to reach a resolution. They would rather throw a hissy fit and leave as soon as things get uncomfortable. But what if I did that to my wife or other family members any time we didn't see eye-to-eye?
Then I would become a covenant-breaker and a very lonely, pitiful person.
No, I chose to work through my differences with my family, and it's well worth it!
The second part of the Serenity Prayer goes like this:
"...the courage to change the things I can, and the courage to know the difference."
We can't remake the world into a paradise by our own willpower, but we can change our corners of the world through His power. That starts by having the courage to examine ourselves honestly, correct our own shortcomings, and mend broken fences. It takes bravery to surrender pride. It takes bravery to live selflessly, like Yeshua. It takes bravery to put ourselves in others' shoes, and to be a peacemaker. But that's where the blessing waits.
While John Mayer is "waiting on the world to change," we saints will be changing it... by first changing ourselves.