Saturday, September 19, 2015
Members of One Body
They will know we are Christians by our love (John 13:35 paraphrased).
Huh. Right now, it seems they know we're Christians by our judgmental comments, pointing fingers, and loud arguments—not only aimed at the world, but slung at each other. We arrange ourselves into factions, draw lines between them, and proceed to shout down everyone not in our group. We attack each other's beliefs. Goodness, we attack each other. We give one another the cold shoulder. We look down our noses at those people who interpret the Bible that way, which is definitely incorrect because it doesn't line up with our way.
And yet, last I checked, we're reading the same Bible. We're serving the same Jesus. We're brothers and sisters! Sometimes I wonder what our family must look like to everyone else . . . this feuding family in which mother, father, sister, brother, all stake out their corner of the room and react viciously to anyone who suggests that another corner is better.
Baptist, Lutheran, Anglican, Catholic, Evangelical, Protestant, non-denominational. We cling to these titles almost as if they are our salvation. We have our church names, our slogans, our spiritual paraphernalia, and heaven help any who carry a different one.
I am sick and tired of the division. What's more attractive: the family whose members bristle with discord and acidic comments, or the family who loves each other and sticks together through any disagreement? When I meet either kind of families in public, there is one I gravitate toward and one I do my utmost to stay away from. What do you think our denominational division looks like from the outside?
Look, my siblings and I do not always agree. We have our spats. We're far from perfect. But in the end, we're still in the same family; we share the same blood. We carry a common name.
And yes, I do realize that a lot of us don't actually treat other denominations as badly as I've illustrated, but I'm painting this subject in vivid colors in an effort to drive home a point. Why should these differences be such a focus? Don't we all share more common ground than not? Ultimately, if you believe Jesus is the Son of God, fully God and fully man, and that he walked the planet, showed us how to live, then died and came back to life in order to bring us back to himself . . . then what else is there? You and I are kin.
I'm not saying theology is unimportant, either. We should always continue to dig into Scripture and discover more about who Jesus is, who we are because of him, and what our purpose is here. Always. And I don't deny that there are Christians out there who believe things I consider unscriptural. But if that belief will not affect their eternal destination, then it is not worth bashing them over it. Will that belief affect their life here on earth? Yep. But a lot of the things we argue about don't actually shift anyone's path from heaven to hell, or vice versa. There is a place and time for theological debates, but they are far fewer than we think.
This is all coming from a girl who is very passionate about truth, a girl able to debate a number of points when she wants to. And I wouldn't believe what I do unless I thought it was right. But I do not, by any means, consider myself to have the full corner on truth. None of us know the entire big picture. I think we'll all be surprised by something when we get to heaven.
So instead of fighting so adamantly over things that don't carry much eternal significance, can't we set our differences aside and love each other? Can we be known by our love? A deep, forgiving, transcendent, no holds barred kind of love? Can we make this our legacy, the reputation we carry?
I'm not suggesting we throw away this denominational thing entirely. It's a beautiful thing that we can all find a church that worships and serves God in a way we connect with. Each one is gifted for a specific purpose. But it would be amazing if we could find it in ourselves to not care so much about labels.
A couple years ago, a friend of mine invited me to a multi-denominational worship event. I don't know how many people attended, but we filled a sports stadium. Together we lifted our voices in praise. We crossed borders and stood as one, worshiping God. It didn't matter which churches we came from. It didn't matter if we had differing opinions on peripheral matters. We all followed Christ. That was the important thing. We had all been drenched in God's reckless love, and we all loved him back.
From Him the whole body [the church, in all its various parts], joined and knitted firmly together by what every joint supplies, when each part is working properly, causes the body to grow and mature, building itself up in unselfish love. (Ephesians 4:16, Amplified) And the same verse in the New Living Translation: He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
It is a great tactic of Satan to distract us with infighting, to get us quibbling over passages of Scripture, so that we forget to actually live out that very Scripture. Our purpose is to populate heaven! Instead we are obsessed with populating our corner with more like-minded individuals. Though oft-quoted, this still holds true: A house divided against itself cannot stand.
Over and over, the Bible reminds us that we are all parts of one body. Each part is vital and has a different function. But we are one.
I appeal to you, dear brothers and sisters, by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, to live in harmony with each other. Let there be no divisions in the church. Rather, be of one mind, united in thought and purpose. (1 Corinthians 1:10, NLT)
Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. (Ephesians 4:2-6, NLT)
Our Sunday mornings may look different. One sits on a pew and sings hymns. Another stands in an auditorium and sings songs written yesterday. One may come dressed in jeans, another in their utmost best. Your church building might sport a steeple that's been there for a century, or church might be held in a converted grocery store. Maybe you're a part of half a dozen people that come together in someone's home, or maybe your congregation numbers in the thousands. Does it matter?
As long as you follow Jesus, no. It doesn't. We're family. Let's act like it.