I was very excited a couple of days ago when I read a post by Kathleen at “Church in a Circle” called “This Easter, let’s set aside our divisions and practise true religion.” Besides misspelling the word “practice” (When will people from other English-speaking countries learn how to spell words like “practice”?), this is a very good post, and an excellent catalyst for thinking about the unity we have in Jesus Christ (and only in Jesus Christ).
As you begin to read and think about Kathleen’s post, keep this quote from Jesus in the back of your mind: “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.” (John 17:20-21 ESV)
Now, this is how Kathleen begins her post:
In my youth, it seemed as though entire church denominations were at war with one another. Evangelicals were certain Catholics had it completely wrong. High Anglicans looked down upon low expressions of church. Baptists thought Pentecostals were from another planet. God’s people focussed on their theological differences, rather than the core beliefs that drew them all to the same God. The world looked on in dismay, and quietly retracted any expectation of discovering God through this violent, divided “religion”.
Did you notice the difference? Jesus said that, because of our unity, “The world may believe that you have sent me.” In contrast, Kathleen says (and rightly so, I think), “The world looked on in dismay.” Well, I think some look on in dismay; some look on in apathy; some look on in contempt. Meanwhile, we keep separating from one another, fighting with one another, refusing to serve other together, and calling each other many names (besides brother or sister).
When I was in Ethiopia a few years ago, one of the things that my brothers and sisters in Christ there could not understand is how followers of Jesus Christ could live next door to one another, work together, go to school together, etc., and yet refuse to serve God together, refuse to treat each other like brothers and sisters in Christ, refuse to live as the church of Jesus Christ together. They just could not understand our divisions.
Here’s the thing… refusing to face our differences will not actually help the problem with divisions among the church.
There’s only one thing that will ease these divisions: focusing on and living in the unity that we already have in Jesus Christ despite our differences.
I’d encourage you to read Kathleen’s post, then consider how you could demonstrate the unity you have with the brothers and sisters in your life… those who are all around you… those you may not think about very often because they are different than you.