Published October 1, 2020
There are abundant examples in this month's issue of how the Lord's kingdom benefits when Kentucky Baptists work together. Indeed we are Better Together when churches mobilize to get the gospel to every home, to have gospel conversations with family, neighbors and co-workers and when we give generously and willingly through the Cooperative Program.
We get inspiration in the New Testament for being Better Together when we read in Acts 4 that the large group of believers were "all of one accord." As a result, they gave unselfishly. They prayed for boldness and for miracles to be done as they proclaimed the name of Christ. Many were healed of their physical infirmities, but more importantly, many came to saving faith in Christ.
We see that unity, working together with a shared vision, reaps a harvest of souls.
Unfortunately, the Bible also tells us of times when there is disunity, and the result is devastating. Consider Judges 12, where we find extreme disunity resulted in 42,000 being killed.
That passage recounts a great tragedy in the history of Israel. We find brethren against brethren — one tribe fighting against a branch of another tribe. The Ephraimites were angry with Jephthah, the leader of the Gileadites.
They made a point of organizing themselves into a lynch mob, then went to Jephthah and asked why he fought the hated Ammonites and didn't ask them for their help.
Notice two things about the Ephraimites' charges. First, they were untrue. They accused Jephthah of failing to give them the opportunity to join in the battle against the Ammonites (the battle had already been won by the Gileadites).
Jephthah sets them straight. He did ask the Ephraimites to fight with him. The problem wasn't his failure to call them to battle; it was the Ephraimites' failure to answer the call and to be involved in the battle. They talked big, but did nothing. They didn't want to be there for the battle, but they wanted to be there when the medals were being passed out.
When Jephthah realized that they weren't coming, he went to battle without them, facing grave danger in the process.
Something that the Ephraimites needed to be told and understand was this: The battle was the Lord's. It was God who won the battle, and it was God alone who should receive the glory. Being Better Together means we gain no glory for ourselves, but that the victories won are to the praise and honor of our Lord.
Secondly, notice the Ephraimites threatened violence. Those who were not courageous enough to fight against the Ammonites were now "mighty in word" when it came to their threats against their Israelite brethren. They threatened to burn down Jephthah's house, indicating their desire to destroy as many Gileadites as they could, especially Jephthah.
A battle ensues between these two Israelite factions. Jephthah and his Gileadite troops soundly defeated the Ephraimites.
Those Ephraimites who survived the battle tried to pass through the Gileadites at the fords of the Jordan River. But they were detected by their inability to pronounce the word "shibboleth." They couldn't make the "sh" sound — couldn't put the "h" in it. The result of getting one letter wrong out of 10 was the death of 42,000 Ephraimites.
The Ephraimites show us it is easy to pick a fight among brethren, and when we do, there will be casualties. Rather than being divisive like the Ephraimites, we must be Better Together. We would do well to remember Benjamin Franklin’s advice to the other Founding Fathers, "Men, we must hang together or we will hang separately."
The articles in this issue clearly demonstrate the importance and value of individuals and churches being Better Together — and to celebrate the many victories won when that term applies to us.
But that begs the question — how can we become Better Together?
• We must realize that our chief goal must be to be tell people about Jesus and mirror Jesus in our lives. That mindset will move us away from being focused on selfish desires.
• We must speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15), making sure we do it with gentleness and respect.
• We must accept the fact we won't always agree with everyone, but we don't let differences of opinion on inconsequential matters disrupt our unity.
May we follow the example of Habakkuk, who asked God "how" and "why" questions. It was only when the prophet focused on who God was that those questions vanished. The result— God was glorified in his life and he proclaimed, "My Lord is my strength; He makes my feet like those of a deer and enables me to walk on mountain heights" (Hab. 3:19). When believers embrace that mindset, we'll be in unity and be Better Together.
Chip Hutcheson is interim managing editor of the Western Recorder, the monthly magazine of the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can email him at
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