Thursday, July 20, 2006

That They All May Be Divided?


In his classic work, A Plain Account of Christian Perfection, John Wesley writes part of his book in question and answer fashion. In answer to # 37, Wesley records his view:
"Beware of schism, of making a rent in the Church of Christ. That inward disunion, the members ceasing to have a reciprocal love `one for another,' (1 Cor. 12:25,) is the very root of all contention, and every outward separation. Beware of everything tending thereto. Beware of a dividing spirit; shun whatever has the least aspect that way. Therefore, say not, `I am of Paul or of Apollos;' the very thing which occasioned the schism at Corinth. Say not, `This is my Preacher; the best Preacher in England. Give me him, and take all the rest.' All this tends to breed or foment division, to disunite those whom God hath joined. Do not despise or run down any Preacher; do not exalt any one above the rest, lest you hurt both him and the cause of God. On the other hand, do not bear hard upon any by reason of some incoherency or inaccuracy of expression; no, nor for some mistakes, were they really such."
Let's face it: Christianity is a divided mess today. You have your branches of Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, etc. Then you have your historic (mainline) Protestant denominations that have fallen into liberalism. Finally, you have the rest of us, be it a staunch fundamentalist AV-KJV1611 Baptist to a pew-jumping Pentecostal. We're a divided mess.

Can it be repaired? It's a complicated question that my church affiliation, The Church of God (Anderson) has attempted to answer. However, honesty forces me to admit that in the 125 years of our existence we haven't been able to reverse the trend.

We know the Lord doesn't want it this way. In his high priestly prayer Christ interceded:
"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me." (Joh 17.20-23 ESV)
It doesn't look well to an unbelieving world; Jesus' testimony is hindered by our unwillingness or inability to get along.

In a few more posts we will be examining this concept of unity. How much can we repair the schism in Christianity, if at all? What is expendable? What is too important to compromise? When do we have to say, "No more!" and stand our ground?

But let us pray as Jesus did, that we all may be one.