That They May Be One

Monday, May 12, 2008

 

Although I am a pastor in a particular denomination, and although I am happy as a Reformed Protestant, I am passionate about the unity of the whole church.  Jesus, on the night before his crucifixion, prayed to the Father for our unity: “Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” (John 17:11b ESV)  Earlier, he said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35 TNIV)

 

But the reality is that our common witness is marred by our divisions.  (See John 17:21, 23)  The one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church is fractured among some 33,000 distinct denominations, obscuring our common, unified witness as followers of Jesus Christ.  Especially in the United States, we have elevated minor differences of opinion to the status of essentials, thereby building walls between Christians where there are none! (See Ephesians 2:14-18

 

Now, I’ll be first in line to discuss theology, the limits of Christianity, and how to best understand the Bible.  But all of us who claim Christ need to keep our eye on the big picture: Our unity is something already accomplished by Jesus; we need only to recognize it, celebrate it, and live into it.  Even if we find ourselves in different denominations and in different traditions, we can still reach out and love our sisters and brothers in other denominations and traditions, acknowledging the value of their faith and our spiritual unity in Christ.  The church would be a whole lot more unified if we at least did this!  Augustine of Hippo (A.D. 354-430) said it best: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.”

And so, to drive home my point, a parable on unity:

 

One day, a man was walking across a bridge.  And there, in the middle of the bridge, there was another man standing on the edge, about to jump off.  The first man ran over and said, “Stop!  Don’t do it!”

 

The second man, who was obviously disturbed, said, “Why shouldn’t I?”

 

The first man said, “There’s so much to live for!”

 

And the suicidal man replied, with a scowl on his face, “Like what?”

 

The first man asked, “Well…are you religious or atheist?”

“Religious,” the second man replied suspiciously.

 

And the first man said, “Me too!  Are you Jewish or Christian?”

He said, “Christian.”

 

And the first man said, “Me too!  Are you Catholic or Protestant?”

 

And, looking slightly less depressed, the second man replied, “Protestant.”

 

The first man said, “Me too!  Are you Methodist or Presbyterian?”

 

The second man started to smile a little and said, “Presbyterian.”

 

The first man couldn’t believe it.  He said, “Wow!  Me, too!  Are you Reformed Presbyterian or Associate Reformed Presbyterian?”

 

The second man replied, “Associate Reformed Presbyterian.” 

The first man was amazed.  “Me, too!” he cried.  And the two men smiled broadly at each other and shook hands.  Pressing his luck, the first man asked, “Are you Old Side Associate Reformed Presbyterian or New Side Associate Reformed Presbyterian.”

 

The second man smiled proudly and announced, “Old Side.”

 

“Me, too!” shouted the first man.  And the two men hugged a manly hug and agreed to exchange Christmas cards.  The first man ventured yet another question: “Are you General synod, Old Side Associate Reformed Presbyterian or Evangelical synod, Old Side Associate Reformed Presbyterian?”

And the second man beamed happily, no longer depressed at all, knowing that he had finally found a true brother in Christ.  And he replied, “General synod, Old Side Associate Reformed Presbyterian, and proud of it!”

 

The first man’s countenance dropped.  His smile turned into a frown.  And with contempt in his voice, he said, “Die, heretic scum!”  And pushed him off the bridge.

 

Let’s all try to practice a little more humility and forbearance.

 

Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department.” (Romans 14:1 The Message)

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “That They May Be One

  1. I’m surprised more people don’t comment.

    I’ve been too busy to even read your blogs lately. You do very good research and bring interesting outside information to your subjects.

    One third of the living today claim to be “Christian”. 2 Billion of us. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, and your house,” Acts. Getting in doesn’t take a lot of faith. So I suppose their are a lot of Christians. A reason their are so many different “flavors” is people differ on how we are to conduct ourselves when we assemble. Among a myriad of other reasons.

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