“Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to You. Holy Father, You have given Me Your name; now protect them by the power of Your name so that they will be united just as we are.” (John 17:11 NLT)
Friedrich Nietzsche wrote: “It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.” It’s not a stretch to think that a lack of friendship is at the root of a lot of unhappy believers.
Have you ever wondered why there are so many churches of the same “persuasion” in any given city? It would be nice if we could attribute that to evangelism. But, unfortunately, often it’s because the “board” couldn’t agree on the color of carpet in the sanctuary or what color to paint the nursery.
We’re so prone to pettiness in the Church, not because we don’t have “right” beliefs, but because we just don’t like each other. Most of the churches in which I pastored were small. Trust me, there’s a reason small churches stay small, and it’s not because the Lord doesn’t want them to grow. The overriding reason is that there are generally people in the church who are too threatened by new people, so they create division and disharmony to “scare away” anyone who might cause a threat to the disunity of the church.
Am I being cynical? Probably. But it deeply saddens me that we allow people to serve in positions of leadership in our churches who, in some cases, aren’t even believers in the Lord. They may have business knowledge or social skills, but they have no business leading Christian churches.
Most division in the church isn’t caused by wrong belief, it’s caused by wrong hearts. We want our way more than we want God’s way and we’re willing to do what we must to get our way. But the tragedy to me is that it doesn’t end there.
In Jesus’ longest prayer in the Bible His heart’s cry was that we, as His followers, would be one as He and His Father are one; that we would find our unity in Him, illustrated by our love for one another, not only among individual groups of believers, but across denominational lines. Yet, here again, we’re more in love with our preferences than we are with Jesus.
We let the proverbial “tail” wag the dog when we choose doctrines over Christ. What does that mean? It essentially means we allow doctrinal preferences to take precedent over oneness in the Body of Christ. How so? Take for example speaking in tongues.
When I was in ministry the church group with which I was ordained was “non-Pentecostal.” That was just a way to let people know we didn’t speak in tongues. Tongues was a very divisive issue when I was first in ministry, and I was adamant about it . . . until I met a few Pentecostal Pastors. Long story short, some of my best friends in ministry were and are my brothers and sisters in Pentecostal churches. I spoke in their churches and they in mine. Christ’s love bonded us together when doctrines of man tried to keep us apart. Eternal security is another “hot” topic, not so much on a theological level as on an emotional level.
Some doctrines become platforms upon which people’s faith is built, more than guideposts to help us navigate our walk with Jesus. My security as a believer isn’t built on a doctrine, it’s built on Jesus. Whether or not I speak in tongues is secondary to whether or not Christ owns my heart and is enabling me to hear His still, small voice.
As people of God, we must hold tightly to Jesus, but in so doing, we must also hold tightly to one another. The battlelines are becoming more and more clear between those of us who profess faith in Jesus and those who want to destroy anything that even hints of godliness.
We’ve got to stop letting our personal preferences divide us and allow God’s Spirit to unite us. If we’re going to be in heaven together, we might as well start liking each other now. It’s among our most powerful witnesses to an unbelieving world, and in my humble opinion, it’s just more interesting and enjoyable to have friends who don’t believe exactly like me.
Food for thought.
Blessings, Ed 😊