Imagine our country decided to wage war on Christianity. If you were a Christian you would be condemned to death. Which kind of Christian would they choose to persecute? Would it matter whether you were Methodist or Baptist or church of Christ? What would matter is your allegiance to Jesus.
Church of Christ, Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Nazarene, Assembly of God, Church of God, Pentecostal, Lutheran, Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, etc.
These are just a sampling of the myriad of denominations we find in our culture today. Millions of Christians meeting in different buildings under different monikers all claiming to love Jesus and each other but not willing to fellowship each other creates confusion for those outside the church.
If I wasn’t a Christian, if I didn’t go to church, I would be appalled by what I saw in churches. I would see that they claim to have a better way through Jesus and are supposed to love one another, but they can’t even get along with one another so there is a different church on every corner. If I wanted to come to know Jesus and join a church, how would I know which one is best or right?
This kind of division flies in the face of Jesus’ prayer for unity in John 17. Why did he want the church to be unified? Because of the spread of the gospel. So that people would know God sent Jesus.
The letters to the Corinthian church were written to convict them of their division. Now churches divide all the time even within their specific tribe, and people don’t even bat an eye. How will we ever be the true church that belongs to Jesus if the selfishness and bickering within us gets in the way?
“But they don’t teach the truth.”
Are you sure? Have you studied for yourself, or have you just been in a movement that has taught a certain way for generations. With the onset of more and more independent and non-denominational churches, can we honestly say we know their theology well enough to sit in God’s seat of judgment in condemnation of them? Should we ever sit in that seat?
Even as you read the New Testament epistles, you see a wide variety of religious understandings and practices. Jews wanted to force Gentiles to conform to their traditions. Gentiles wanted nothing of it. This was a huge schism within the church, but over and over we read of a desire for peace and unity in diversity based on the foundation of the gospel event.
It is time for churches everywhere to not only want to accept the grace of Jesus but be willing to extend that grace to others as well. It is time to remember that God’s grace covers my sins and my doctrinal misunderstandings insofar as I desire the ways of Jesus and strive to follow them as best as I understand. If that grace covers me, then it covers you too.
We look at the lists of sins and consider all the personal sins with abhorrence, but we seem to forget that the sins most written and spoken about in the NT were the sins that divided the church.
Where do we go from here?
It’s time we started to get to know and love those in the other church communities that find their direction from the Bible and look to the death and resurrection of Jesus for salvation. It’s time we presented a united front in our communities as we publicly express our unity with one another. It’s time we repented of our arrogance and division. It’s time we begin to recognize the one church that Jesus died for – not a building with a sign on the door, but all people who have surrendered to Jesus.