The church is the bride of Christ. In a marriage, each spouse must be willing to make sacrifices to make the other partner happy…only, God has already made the greatest sacrifice. What have we done?
I look across the world. I try to define Christian, but it is a convoluted term. I try to define salvation, but it seems only to be a mere marker for what is a glimpse of someone’s eternal life. I see 22 generic denominations just under Protestantism; and that doesn’t even list all the branches of denominations which come off of that! I see 5 major branches of Catholicism, I see 3 branches of Latter Day Saints, I see 4 branches of Nontrinitarian, I see Messianic Judaism, New Thought, Syncrestistic Religions, Esoteric Christianity…the list goes on. All of these Christians claim Jesus Christ as savior – the primary characteristic of what we observe as salvation. Yet, we fail to discern which of these are true Christians, and it is no wonder! We have all of these different denominations within the Church. We all have different beliefs, and a lot of us are not willing to budge to see any truth in other denominations. “Only our denomination is the good one.” When we are conflicted with a belief that we are unfamiliar with, or disagree with, our response is to prove it wrong. We get so caught up in our debates of trying to prove our point, that we lose sight of trying to find out the truth of God. Denominations are made up by men, imperfect men. Denominations are bound to be flawed. How ignorant of us to think that we are capable of being right in every aspect of theology. At the end of the day, what good do I accomplish for Jesus by arguing with others, even if I prove them wrong? Approaching inter-denomination relations in this manner is not Christ-like and is in no way beneficial to anyone.
I would argue to you that the church requires unity! It requires the same unity that a marriage does. The Church should become one with Christ; the entire church, not just individual denominations! Yes, theology is important. Yes, we need to practice good religion. But I believe we have used this as an excuse to make a crusade of other Christian denominations. We need to approach debate with an open dialogue; meaning, I do not discuss religion with you so that I prove you wrong and prove my point, but so that I can gleam from you the truth of God that you have come to know, and you can gleam from me. It is reciprocal. It is not one way. When we humble ourselves in this manner, when Jesus becomes the center for all that we are working towards, when Jesus becomes what we strive to be like, to whom we hold fast to, to what we love – I believe the Church will be operating at its full capability. I believe that denominations will become a thing of the past. One day, the term Christian won’t be some obscure identity claim, it won’t be something that is claimed by masses of people with differing beliefs…it will be the one true group of followers of Christ. It will be people taking care of the fatherless and the poor. It will be a group of people that come together, despite differences, to work towards the Kingdom of God. It will be a people who turn to God for direction, not towards man written decrees. It will be a people who stray from judgment and towards servitude. It will be a people full of love. The Day is coming.
In the end of times, all Christians will be persecuted. We will not survive if we do not come together as one. We talk about the analogy of two oxen being yoked together as being much more powerful than the one ox. We relate this to churches of the same denomination coming together for one effort. This should be the case for all churches of Christ! Our marriage with Christ is One. God is not a polygamist. He did not choose the church of Pentecostals as a bride, as well as Baptists, as well as Catholics, as well as Methodists… We are all ONE! It is easy to defend our own denominations and to say that we must be careful not to mix our religion with the poor doctrine of others. But how much more of a sacrifice is it to be able to look at all of the denominations and say, “Yes, I do not agree with everything that is out there,” but be able to overcome that, to find similarities with those people, to find what unites you with them, and to submit yourself to the Holy Spirit and say, “I’m going to love these people and work with them for the good of Christ no matter what it takes.” I believe that Lucifer’s strongest tool against the Church is denominations. He has broken us apart. Confusion is what he is best at. He comes to steal, kill, and destroy. He has done all of that to the Church. The devil has led us to believe that we are justified in this very brokenness. We all put ourselves on high chairs and look down at each other. Where does this get us? …further from true religion and closer to poor doctrine. In trying to prove our own denomination’s doctrine, we miss the whole picture! It is not about being right. It is about finding ways to work together despite our differences! You will call me a postmodernist. You will call me a liberal. You will call me whatever it is that you want. But you will miss the picture. I wish that you could see it. Lay down your high chairs. Humble yourself. When we are in true fellowship with Christ, our differences are insignificant. The unifying power of the Holy Spirit overcomes those differences. In the end of days, the church will unify, or it will fall. Why wait until then to become unified? Become unified now, so that when the day comes, we are prepared. We are a Church who is anointed by God and we are empowered – even more so when we are unified!
So what am I trying to say? Am I trying to say that we should lay down doctrine? Am I trying to say that theology is hardly relevant? Am I trying to say that the experience of the Holy Spirit is more important than intellect? By all means, no! What I am saying is that we the Church are the bride of Christ, and should act so. This means we must become unified as one. It means that we should approach dialogue with other denominations with a sense of learning what God has revealed to them. It means that we should approach other denominations with a Christ like attitude – not that we are better than them or that we have something to teach them, but that we should humble ourselves to learn from each other. It means that we should actually put to practice the love of Christ within the Church. We do well to love the poor and fatherless – now let’s carry this into God’s church, to the bride of Christ, to God’s own people! Pray for direction from the Holy Spirit, that His truth may be revealed, not yours. Envelop yourself in the Word – that is the best source of theology! How we miss this so much! If you are not sure about a subject, research it for yourself! God has given you an able mind and the right tools. As the bride of Christ, I challenge you: consider your own beliefs, make self-examination a tool which you use every day. I challenge you to try to learn something from the denominations which you have so denounced. I challenge you to love the Church as you would love Christ. I challenge you to work towards unity where it is not easy, but requires endurance, faith, love, and patience.