Saturday, March 27, 2010

Some thoughts on unity

Nothing new here, just some random musings this morning.

There seems to be an increasing amount of chatter about unity online, some of which is impractical and much of which is given to sense of helpless shoulder shrugging.

What is the basis of our unity? The Apostles Creed or the Nicene Creed? Doctrinal statements? Church attendance (at the right sort of church of course)?

The only basis for our unity is our shared redemption. Unity can only be found among fellow born-again believers, born not of the will of man but through the power of the Holy Spirit. As important as doctrinal statements are, declarations of the ancient creeds and such, they are not even on the radar as far as unity is concerned in the Body of Christ.

It is a great folly to try to discover unity based on denominational beliefs. In the past, I would rank people in terms of unity based on where they went to church:

Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc: - Not brothers in any way

Roman Catholics – Almost certainly not brothers, perhaps brothers in spite of where they go to church.

Episcopalians, liberal Presbyterians and Lutherans, most Methodists – Might be brothers but man they need to find another church

Conservative Presbyterians (PCA and OPC) and Lutherans (LCMS) – Brothers but in serious error on baptism

Most Baptists – Brothers, right on baptism, wrong on soteriology

Reformed Baptists – Brothers who are right on almost every issue, brothers unless proven otherwise

I think that is dangerous thinking because people go to church for lots of different reasons and not many of them are terribly Scriptural. My brothers who are Reformed Baptists or United Methodist are not my brothers because of their institutional church affiliation but because they are redeemed sheep of Jesus Christ. I didn’t choose Christ and I certainly don’t get to choose who else He redeemed.

Conversely, since our only basis for unity is being born-again, it is just as foolhardy to add requirements to our source of common unity. This is the tragedy of denominationalism, closed communion, dogmatic adherence to creeds and all of the other ways we divide other believers from our fellowship.

I think the reason unity is so hard for the Body to achieve is because we don’t get what unifies us in the first place. If we focused on that, unity would be a lot easier. Not unanimity for certain but certainly not the incredibly disunity we have now and have had for nearly two thousand years. What we should seek is a functional unity, a unity that transcends mere lip-service and leads to actual fellowship among believers, a common witness to the world instead of the constant bickering we see now and that I regularly participate in.

A Song of Ascents. Of David. Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. (Psa 133:1-3)

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Anonymous said...

Agreed. Wholeheartedly. (Especially since I made the brother list--lol!)

Zach said...

I completely agree. His goal for us is relationship, not knowing correct doctrine. Something I read by Rick Joyner really captures this idea. (Disclaimer- there are those that may have a dis-taste for this teacher, but I have found great wisdom from some of his books, especially one titled -There Were Two Trees in the Garden.)

He states: 'The Lord looked down on the men of Babel and determined that the scattering of their languages was the best solution to their folly. Babel means "confusion." The Lord looked at what many believed to be the Christian church in the Middle Ages and saw the same folly. Much of the visible church is another form of the orginal tower -- an attempt by to reach heaven by their own works. So the Lord scattered its languages too; now there are over 5,000 different languages or denominations. Regardless of how good works may seem, every work that is an attempt to gather men around anything but the Lord Jesus Himself has its origin in the carnal nature of man. Regardless of whether it is a building, project, or great spiritual truth (italics mine) ---if it is an attempt solely to gather men, confusion will result. Jesus alone can gather men together. Certainly there is nothing wrong with projects or true spiritual doctrine; but if these become our focal point, the Lord will ultimately have to separate us from them for our own good.

'IT is possible to understand all Christian doctrine accurately and yet not be a Christian. Being a Christian is not just understanding certain doctrines and spiritual principles--it is having our life in Jesus. If the truth becomes the focal point, it kills-- it is the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.'

He goes on to say later that 'nothing is impossible with God. It would be a samll thing for HIm to have us all believing the same way about everything. Presently He has a good reason for not doing this. To focus our attention on Him and learn to love and cover one another is far more important than agreeing on all doctrines.'

Unity for its own sake can be a false god. We should seek and behold Him, and He will be formed in us. That is true unity.