Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Diversity not Conformity

Despite the prayer of Jesus that we would be one that is recorded in the 17th Chapter of the Gospel of John, the history of the Church is full of fractures, antagonism and division.  Yet, Jesus said that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. 

Jesus also told us the reason for this unity, "so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." (John 17:23) 

All too often leaders in the Church have taken unity to mean "conformity".  If you want an example of true conformity we can look to the silly cults around us. They dress alike they talk alike and their leaders are feared. Unfortunately there have been moments when we have accomplished the same.  

The early church was anything but uniform.  After Pentecost the church went South, then North, East and West.   These were different nations with diverse cultures and languages.  The gospel brought healing and reconciliation to all...Greek, Jew and barbarian; slave and free.   Christian unity included the diversity of our gifts and callings.  Paul was called to the Gentiles, Peter to the Jews.  The diversity of the church and these divergent gifts were for the building up of the Body.   

Jesus said that He would build His Church and He continues to build, lead and direct His Church.   One of the ways that He is building His Church is through the vast diversity of individuals, gifts, local churches, worship styles, teachings, traditions and even doctrines.

It is after all, His Church. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Divide and Conquer

If you look at the definition of ‘divide and conquer’ you will likely find “The intentional strategy of maintaining control over others by encouraging dissent and division between them.”

It’s a formula for success applied by many.
A formula for success applied by many evil people…..including the evil one.

In the Church, we are to be different, we are encouraged to be of like mind, we are to be one Church.

As believers in Christ we are to pursue the unity of our faith.  We are to be of one mind as there is but one Church with Jesus Christ as the head.  We all share the same gospel as there is only one gospel that is entirely about the completed work of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul encouraged the Church often to be one and in most of his epistles he has something to say about maintaining this unity.    

In Ephesians 4:4-6 Paul says. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all,  who is over all and through all and in all.

Unfortunately, it’s all too easy to slip into division and in the Church, we have had nearly a 2,000 year history of division, distrust, legalism, arrogance and parochial interests as a result of both well-meaning leaders as well as those that are despicable.  The result is the same – they all want us to believe that others that don’t believe or behave exactly like we do, don’t belong.

All too often, the way the church has tried to embrace oneness is through conformity. The thinking is that if we can only get people to worship the same way or baptize the same way or read the same Bibles perhaps we can be one.  

This is always the wrong approach.

The Church is to be diverse, not uniform.

Paul told the Galatians, “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Gal 3:26-29)

This doesn’t mean that the Jew stops being a Jew, that the Greek no longer is Greek.   Actually, much of the early church was made up of both Jews and slaves and these slaves didn’t just become free men and women.  However, slave and free became one in Christ.  We need to embrace our diversity and understand that because we all share one Gospel and one faith, while we may be diverse we are still one Church.

Jesus prayed that we would be one, “So that the world would believe” that the Father had sent him.
Being united in Christ is not a suggestion, it is our obligation.  It is only when the Church becomes One that we can experience the ultimate fulfillment of the Great Commission to take the gospel to all people.  

Pray that it may be so with you: unity through diversity; one Church through the one Gospel. 

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