Are we united as Christians? It’s a simple question. Yes or no. But the truth is that it’s not necessarily that simple. Okay… maybe it is, and we just don’t like the answer. For one thing, a quick Google search reveals that we have over 34,000+ denominations. (My jaw actually dropped when I read this!) I understand the need to attend a church that views certain particulars of Scripture the way you do, but is this what Jesus wanted when He prayed in the garden that we would be united as believers? (John 17:20-23) Is this what Paul meant when he reminded us that we have the mind of Christ and that we should be united by this fact?
If I’m being honest, it’s not the number of denominations that bothers me. It’s the way we treat each other.
Let me give you some background. I live in a smaller town with quite a few churches. I have witnessed first-hand people shunning one another because they attend a different church. And not just once, but on numerous occasions. I’ve heard the gossip that circulates when someone leaves one church for another, and I’ve seen this both in terms of the congregation as well as the leadership. Aren’t we all part of one body? One faith? And one Spirit?
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. – 1 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV)
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:5-6 (NIV)
There’s no doubt that our Christian walk was meant to be shared with one another. We are all in this together. Yet over time, the enemy has used our disagreements over theology and doctrine to segregate and divide us. And I’m not saying that it is wrong necessarily that we have denominations of like-minded believers. I am, however, acknowledging how we treat one another based on these differences.
Paul addressed the same issue in his letter to the Romans. They were fighting over what foods were acceptable to eat and which days they should worship. They were letting these small disputes get in the way of what really mattered – their faith in Jesus.
For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up. Don’t tear apart the work of God over what you eat. – Romans 14:17-20 (NLT)
Now when Paul talks about “the church,” he is not talking about our local church. Rather, he is talking about the church as a whole – the entire body of Christ.
Anyone who bows the knee to Jesus, who receives the truth of the gospel and becomes a child of God, is your brother and sister in Christ. It doesn’t matter what church they go to or where they stand on minor theological issues. As Paul said, “Don’t tear apart the word of God” over something that has no effect on your salvation.
We are all part of the same family. And we are called to be of one mind – and that is the mind of Christ.
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit,if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. – Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV)
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