If you have ever been the child of divorced parents, then you are aware that parents seldom align in parenting when living in separate households. As a result, you might have been told not to eat dessert before dinner under one roof and that is okay to have a small dessert before dinner under another. The point I am bringing up is that when divided it is difficult to make sure one, cohesive message and set of rules are relayed. Even though both parents want what is best for their children, their inability to agree creates ambiguity about absolutes and obedience for the children.
“The Church” (referring to the ecumenical church) today resembles this divorced household with the most prominent split being between Protestants and Catholics. As Christians, we have rationalized our separation to our own detriment. It has never been more apparent than in our inability to agree on how to live a Christ-like life, where we fall on social issues, and our own ambiguity about certain truths and absolutes. While we are entitled to some level of variation as individuals, these beliefs are not to be used as dividing factors. Paul explains this way of thinking concerning Christians and food rituals in Romans 14:22 “So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the man who does not condemn himself by what he approves.” NIV
We should consider this same thinking on the minor differences for which we have created denominations. Are they worth the divorce, or can the be put aside for the sake of marriage and unity. As with any marriage, when it gets rough and we can no longer handle our disputes, we should turn to God for repair. Leaving the house or separating, does not solve the problem; it is avoiding it.
Are we willing to come back under the same roof and go through a period of marriage counseling as a Universal Church as Jesus prays for in John 17:23? He prays that we be in complete unity. This is the way He intended us as a Church to carry out our purpose for His kingdom. Or will the Bridegroom have to watch his bride come down the isle in pieces?
God did not intend for the Church Body to be in pieces. He does not intend for us to remain divorced and away from His will. Be willing to open your mind, so we as Christians can become of one mind.
Think about that.
Being called singled-minded is not a bad thing.
Some might ask why Christians need to be united whenever most acknowledge that we are all part of the universal, catholic (with a lowercase “c”) church. Select denominations event recite it in their versions of the Apostle’s Creed.
While it may be true that we all accept Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are not universal to the extent that Christians can put the names of all their local churches in a hat, pull one out, and readily attend it. Here are a couple definitions of universal before I move forward with this argument:
“Including or covering all or a whole collectively or distributively without limit or exception” -Webster Dictionary
“Of, affecting, or done by all people or things in the world or in a particular group; applicable in all cases” -Oxford Dictionary
Now ask yourself, are there any churches I would not attend/visit. Keeping your response in mind, would you be willing to walk into any church and become a member on the spot? The chances are that some might not have a problem attending any church, but became more selective when they thought about membership. Honestly, the number one thing that probably popped into most of our minds on the second question was OUR preferences or differences in beliefs. Newsflash, church is not about us! It is about God.
That whole point was to bring up the uncomfortable truth that most Christians do not carry the mindset of someone apart of a universal church, and there is a good explanation why this mindset is not popular: This universal church does not exist. I am not saying that God does not view us all as His people. I am observing that we do not view all houses of worship the same. We have created exceptions with denominationalism. With so many people and congregation claiming to be Christian, we do not believe churches embody our beliefs in all cases. These factions result from a lack of Christians being of one mind.
While denominationalism justly originated in response to the faults of the Catholic Church during the Protestant Reformation, it spurred continual splits of one mindedness. The Church’s sins led to the sins of these new churches that kept dividing. What sins you may ask? The abuse of power led to the depletion of “complete unity”, which one could argue was never present at the beginning of Christianity. While this may have truth in it, there was a distinct, clear Christian identity and one doctrine before then. Think of the wars that reigned in Europe over these divisions. Division was obviously not God’s will from the start although God works through our faults. Here is the question that really matters: Would the world call us that universal church we claim to be in our creed?
So, what were we supposed to do if Christians were justified in standing up against the wrong of the Church during the Reformation? Believe me, the Catholic Church learned a valuable lesson from the Reformation, but did Protestants? Forced to reconsider elements of doctrine, structure, and authority, the Catholic Church over time dealt with their issues. Though not perfect, they maintain a strong rate of doctrinal consistency at a global level. Protestants have been great about making the gospel accessible to all walks of life, and now both factions should take their call to be obedient to God even further.
The Reformation served its purpose, but it is my belief that such divisions are no longer necessary. The time has come when the complete unity of the Universal Church needs to be repaired. It is Jesus’ prayer for us in John 17:20-23 (” 20 My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved as you have loved me.”) NIV
Our actions speak louder than those words we say in our creed.
The time has come to yield in obedience and turn our “Universal” lie into the Universal truth.
Let’s shock the world. Let’s agree. Let’s unite. Let there be no question among those who do not believe as to whether Christians are of one mind and body.
Are we that generation of complete obedience? Now is the time. You decide.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”