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Game of Thrones: The Enemy Beyond the Wall

Image credit: HBO


Written By David Samuel

It’s winter, and the enemy is coming. The wall will not protect you, because this enemy is powerful. It is not afraid of dying, because it is already dead. It is led by the king of the night, who fears nothing, not even the most powerful weapon in your arsenal. It is coming to kill everyone. Everyone. What do you do?

If you’re a sensible person who sees the danger clearly and who puts your faith, heart and mind ahead of your personal ambitions and emotions, the answer is obvious. You try to unite everyone to fight this enemy, because it is possibly more powerful than all the living combined. But if you’re a small-minded, throne-obsessed individual who can’t see beyond your personal goals and ego, why, the answer is also obvious. You continue in your petty battles behind the wall, fighting kith and kin for a pathetic seat of power, forgetting that the biggest enemy is out there, marching inexorably towards the wall.

Welcome to the Game of Church.

Thrones! Sorry, I meant Thrones!

Okay, I have to confess that I’ve been watching HBO’s widely-watched TV series, which has run into Season 7, the finale of which was aired this week. The adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s fantasy novel series, A Song of Ice and Fire, is a long-running fantasy saga about several dynastic families fighting for power, land, dominance, and independence. First aired in 2011, the HBO production has shattered viewership records in many of the 170 countries it reaches.

The success of GoT, as its fans call it, has been credited to the perennial popularity of fantasy themes, the amazing sets, skillful direction and cinematography, and ensemble cast. Oh, and the copious amounts of sex, nudity, and extreme violence.

That’s why I said “confess”. The series has raised as many controversies as it has won awards (38 Emmys and counting), for its brutal depictions of incest, rape, and torture, among other things. Not surprisingly, this has prompted many pastors, church elders, and Christian commentators to appeal to believers not to watch the Game of Thrones. I can see where they’re coming from, so I’m not suggesting it’s okay to start watching it. Neither will I agree or disagree with those who see nothing wrong with watching GoT. If you’re in this camp, you’d probably point out that there’s no point avoiding the topics of rape, incest, murder, and brutality—why, that’s hardly anything compared to the real world!

(Good thing is, most of the cast have been beheaded, sliced up, stabbed, burnt, crushed, shot with arrows, and eaten up by wolves by now, so there have been a lot less sex and violence in this season.)

So I’m not going to go into whether or not you should watch the Game of Thrones. If you have been watching it, however, I’d like to suggest that there is at least one lesson in the series that is worth thinking about. And it’s about unity—not just in the world, but also in the church.

There is an enemy out there. He’s the ruler of the darkness (the even scarier version of GoT’s Night King), and he’s got an army of the dead (in-joke alert: that’s what they’re referred to in the show) marching towards us. And what do many of us do? We squabble among ourselves, fighting over petty things like who should sit on the church council and how much we should spend on a church camp. We take brothers and sisters in Christ to court over what they say. We exchange complaints about elders and submit petitions on why one leader should be kept and another should be sacked. It’s hard not to wonder if the Night King is already among us . . .

It’s no wonder, then, that unity among believers is mentioned so many times in the Bible. In Jesus’ parting prayer for His disciples, one of His concerns was for them to stay united in the face of persecution and attack. “Protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are . . .  May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me,” he prays (John 17:11, 23).

That Jesus would compare the unity between believers to the unity among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit shows how critical it is—and not just to church growth. Our unity reflects the Trinity’s glory; disunity will only bring dishonor to God.

Paul, too, repeatedly stresses the need for unity in his letters to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Colossians, Romans and Philippians (eg. 1 Cor 1:10, Eph 4:11-13, Col 3:13-14), as do Peter and John.

In this season of the Game of Thrones, Jon Snow, one of the protagonists, spends much time going around trying to convince the others of the danger behind the wall. Stop your fighting, he pleads, because we will all die if we don’t unite to fight the real enemy. But it seems that few believe him, and even fewer want to give up their pursuit of the Iron Throne.

Will Jon Snow succeed in Season 8, which wraps up the saga? With the show’s tendency to kill off even the most popular characters, it’s really hard to guess. Perhaps the more important question is: Will the next season of the Game of Church go the same way?

ODJ: one

July 15, 2014 

READ: Ephesians 4:1-6 


Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love (v.2). 

Have you ever wanted to take a quick peek at someone else’s mail? Maybe it was an envelope from a doctor’s office that held the results of a family member’s recent medical tests. Or perhaps it was a letter addressed to your parents from an estranged family member. As you held the envelope in your hands, the temptation to open it might have felt overwhelming.
In the country where I live, a person can go to prison for tampering with another’s mail. But, in a way, that’s what we do every time we open one of the epistles in the New Testament.

These letters found in God’s Word were written to individual believers and to young churches that had been planted across the Roman Empire during the earliest days of Christianity. The apostle Paul wrote 13 of the letters, each addressing a specific situation or concern.

Halfway into his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul pleaded with his readers to “make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit” (Ephesians 4:3). Why did he want them to be one? Because they shared so many ones—one body, one Spirit, one glorious hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father (vv.4-6).

Oneness. It’s meant to be the heartbeat of God’s people. And Paul wrote that humble, gentle, patient and peaceful attitudes are what will help a heart of unity to beat strong (vv.2-3).

When believers in Jesus experience conflicts and disagreements (and we will), pride, harshness, impatience and intolerance won’t keep us together. Those things will only tear us apart. Instead, we need to remember the letter to the Ephesians which reminds us to “be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of [our] love” (v.2). —Jeff Olson

365-day plan› Matthew 10:16-42

MORE
Read Ephesians 4:32 and reflect on the example Jesus gave us of loving others well. 
NEXT
How have you struggled to achieve unity with other believers in Jesus who have differing views of disputable matters? (such as dress, music, worship styles, Bible translations). How can you move towards unity in the days ahead? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)

ODB: Promoting Unity

The language of Proverbs 6:16-19 is strong. In the citing of seven things the Lord hates, sowing “discord among brethren” makes the list. The reason for naming this sin is that it spoils the unity that Christ desires for His followers (John 17:21-22).

Those who sow discord may not initially set out to create divisions. They may be preoccupied instead with their personal needs or the interests of a group they belong to (James 4:1-10). Consider how Lot’s herdsmen argued with those of Abraham (Gen. 13:1-18); Christ’s disciples argued about personal preeminence (Luke 9:46); and divisive groups in the church at Corinth elevated party factions above the unity of the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:1-7).

So what is the best way to promote unity? It begins with the transformation of the heart. When we adopt the mind of Christ, we develop an attitude of humility and we focus on service toward others (Phil. 2:5-11). Only in Him can we access the power to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others” (v.4). Soon the needs and hopes of others become more important to us than our own.

With growing bonds of love among us, we find discord replaced with joy and unity (see Ps. 133:1).

— Dennis Fisher

March 23, 2014 

READ: Proverbs 6:16-19 

The Lord hates . . . one who sows discord among brethren. —Proverbs 6:16,19 

The language of Proverbs 6:16-19 is strong. In the citing of seven things the Lord hates, sowing “discord among brethren” makes the list. The reason for naming this sin is that it spoils the unity that Christ desires for His followers (John 17:21-22).

Those who sow discord may not initially set out to create divisions. They may be preoccupied instead with their personal needs or the interests of a group they belong to (James 4:1-10). Consider how Lot’s herdsmen argued with those of Abraham (Gen. 13:1-18); Christ’s disciples argued about personal preeminence (Luke 9:46); and divisive groups in the church at Corinth elevated party factions above the unity of the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:1-7).

So what is the best way to promote unity? It begins with the transformation of the heart. When we adopt the mind of Christ, we develop an attitude of humility and we focus on service toward others (Phil. 2:5-11). Only in Him can we access the power to “look out not only for [our] own interests, but also for the interests of others” (v.4). Soon the needs and hopes of others become more important to us than our own.

With growing bonds of love among us, we find discord replaced with joy and unity (see Ps. 133:1).

— Dennis Fisher

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we—
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity. —Baring-Gould

We can accomplish more together than we can alone. 

ODJ: generous unity

March 5, 2014 

READ: Ephesians 4:1-16 


Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace (v.3). 

April 2013 marked a milestone birthday for me. To celebrate, we took a long trip to my old

university. Numerous tollbooths, scenic beach views and city excursions marked our unforgettable holiday. The highlight for my husband and me, though, was a little unexpected: it was that our kids had actually enjoyed being together for an extended period of time.

Friction in any relationship is normal, even more so for family members who spend a great deal of time together. How interesting, then, that we become easily dismayed when we encounter conflict in our closest relationships—especially in the church. Like any family, the body of Christ is a combination of varied personalities, hidden quirks and diverse needs. Though we’re all believers in Jesus, we’re far from carbon copies.

Sometimes, sermons regarding keeping harmony in the body of Christ can seem like simple admonitions to ‘play nice’ with one another. But unity in the Spirit offers much more. If conflict is a given, we must ask ourselves not only what God requires of us in times of discord but also what gift He offers in our pursuit of peace (Psalm 34:14-15; Ephesians 2:14-22).

While, as parents, we valued not having to mediate between our kids, the greatest pleasure came in the closeness we had with them in the absence of arguing. The choice to lay down offences, work through conflict and show Christ-like love is a reflection of our unity in Christ (Romans 15:5-6,13). We may be individuals, but we’re also part of a body. Jesus “makes the whole body fit together perfectly . . . healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16). —Regina Franklin


Joshua 23:1-16 ‹365-day plan

MORE
Read Romans 14:1-19 and consider how we can love other believers in Jesus even when we disagree in matters of freedom and conscience.  
NEXT
In what relationships are you sensing discord? How can you pursue peace in a way that addresses conflict in an authentic and healthy way? 

(Check out Our Daily Journey website!)