For the past two posts Awakening Theology pondered the question of unity for a disunited Church. Today we will look further at what I spoke of toward the close of my second post in the series:
Own who you are. What if your congregation/church affiliation has gone south theologically? Well, if you can't reform your congregation/church affiliation to how it used to be then do you need to find a place you can own?When do you allow for a "big tent" of differing opinions and when do you say, "Enough!" Consider Wesley's words in A Plain Account:
Suffer not one thought of separating from your brethren, whether their opinions agree with yours or not. Do not dream that any man sins in not believing you, in not taking your word; or that this or that opinion is essential to the work, and both must stand or fall together. Beware of impatience of contradiction. Do not condemn or think hardly of those who cannot see just as you see, or who judge it their duty to contradict you, whether in a great thing or a small. I fear some of us have thought hardly of others, merely because they contradicted what we affirmed. All this tends to division; and, by everything of this kind, we are teaching them an evil lesson against ourselves.As important (and true) as this instruction is for us today, we must remember that Wesley was talking about fellow believers, not unregenerate sinners who falsely claimed to be Christians and were bringing churches to ruin through their debauchery. Wesley would suffer no fool gladly. In his Sermon # 81, "In What Sense We Are to Leave the World," Wesley preaches on the Scripture:
Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty. (2Co 6:17-18 ESV)It is clear he wouldn't allow false Christians to run amok in his Societies. Read parts of his sermon:
What is it then which the Apostle forbids? First, the conversing with ungodly men when there is no necessity, no providential call, no business, that requires it: Secondly, the conversing with them more frequently than business necessarily requires: Thirdly, the spending more time in their company than is necessary to finish our business: Above all, Fourthly, the choosing ungodly persons, however ingenious or agreeable, to be our ordinary companions, or to be our familiar friends. If any instance of this kind will admit of less excuse than others, it is that which the Apostle expressly forbids elsewhere; the being 'unequally yoked with an unbeliever' in marriage; with any person that has not the love of God in their heart, or at least the fear of God before their eyes. I do not know anything that can justify this; neither the sense, wit, or beauty of the person, nor temporal advantage, nor fear of want; no, nor even the command of a parent. For if any parent command what is contrary to the Word of God [in telling the child to marry a sinner], the child ought to obey God rather than man.And this:
Here is the sum of this prohibition to have any more intercourse with unholy men than is absolutely necessary. There can be no profitable fellowship between the righteous and the unrighteous; as there can be no communion between light and darkness,--whether you understand this of natural or of spiritual darkness. As Christ can have no concord with Belial; so a believer in him can have no concord with an unbeliever. It is absurd to imagine that any true union or concord should be between two persons, while one of them remains in darkness, and the other walks in the light. They are subjects, not only of two separate, but of two opposite kingdoms. They act upon quite different principles; they aim at quite different ends. It will necessarily follow, that frequently, if not always, they will walk in different paths. How can they walk together, till they are agreed?--until they both serve either Christ or Belial?Now, it may be argued that the English evangelist wasn't speaking of a church group or local congregation but, rather, Christian conduct in general. That nuance, however, is groundless because can anyone (who isn't deluded) really think for a New York minute that John Wesley would receive unrepentant sinners/false Christians into a Methodist Society with good standing?
You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4.4 ESV)I doubt Wesley's "Christian" England was anything close to our "Christian" America. (At least most people then didn't debate the authority of the Scriptures or the Bible's long accepted interpretations on sexual morality). Today false Christians have slipped in unawares (or awares!) and are calling evil good and good evil (Isaiah 5.20). These depraved sinners claim to be holy yet live like the devil and have slid their church groups or congregations into heresy/heterodoxy.
We are wilting under the raging sin of πορνεια which Joseph Thayer defines in gloss 1a as "adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc." What is so bad, though, is that we've got people claiming to be Christians who are celebrating porneia!
In such a state the Remnant within have a difficult question to ask themselves:
"Does God want us to re-claim our church or does he want us to shake the dust from our shoes as a witness unto them and turn and walk away?"
I can't answer that question. It would be a case-by-case decision. Still, the Remnant of Christ cannot fellowship with Belial.
After all, what fellowship does light have with darkness?