Pride in our church’s beliefs, putting others down because they don’t have the right beliefs, preaching at others’ sins without acknowledging our own and without getting to know who the person really is—these are very human ways of calling attention to ourselves and taking it away from others. They are ego-based actions which elevate us—that is their purpose. But they are far from promoting the Gospel of Jesus, far from what he taught and from his presence in the world. Was he haughty, lording over others his own status? He certainly challenged the Pharisees and leaders of the Jews for their hypocrisy. But with everyone else he was loving, serving their needs, healing their pain. He never even claimed to be the son of God!
We have to stop using the teachings for our own purposes and get ourselves right with God. The major issue in the church today is our hypocrisy. We say one thing and do another. We preach the Gospel, but we don’t live it. We compete with other denominations as if we’re right and they are all wrong.
Is this the one body of Christ as Paul taught it? A guest preacher at my church recently, Phanta Lansden, listed all the parts of a human body: 206 bones, 600 muscles, 12 organ systems, 100 trillion cells, 60,000 miles of blood vessels(those were the only numbers I caught: there were more.) And yet each human body functions as a unified whole. Paul captured this in 1 Corinthians 12: “Now if a foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body.’” Or if an ear should decide it doesn’t belong because it is not an eye…
The human body, as well as the body of Christ, needs every part functioning well and faithfully. If the body of Christ is to grow and have relevance it must be because all the parts of the church of Jesus Christ are functioning together. If the Baptists are fighting the Presbyterians or the Evangelicals are dissing the Pentecostals, it has nothing to do with Christ or his work in the world. If I think I have all the right beliefs, I have just denied every one else’s beliefs who doesn’t agree with me. Competition is a purely human sport; it has nothing to do with the body of Christ.
Paul put it so beautifully when he wrote in Galatians 3: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ.” And I would add, there is neither Methodist nor Catholic, neither Presbyterian or Pentecostal, neither Evangelical nor Free Church, for we are all one in Christ.
If we look at the creation of God, it is clear to me that he loves diversity: there are 1.7 million identified species of animals, plants, insects and algae on this earth, but scientists estimate that actually the total is more like 8 million. Just for example, there are over a million species of insects, 5,513 of mammals, 10,425 of birds, just to name a few. And that’s on only one planet in an enormous universe. If we look at the Earth’s peoples and all their diversity in talents and skin color and stature and interests, looks, etc., again we see God’s love of diversity. Who’s to say that God doesn’t delight in the many different ways passages in the Bible are interpreted? Who’s to say that God doesn’t argue with the existence of 40,000 + denominations of churches in the world? Who’s to say that he doesn’t expect diverse opinions and unity in the body of Christ.
It’s clear to me that it is we humans who are clannish and “righteous” about our denominations and their beliefs, not God. We are too focused on our own church and not on God himself. Paul is hinting that God doesn’t see the diversity in the churches in Corinth and Galatia and Rome as bad, because they are one in the body of Christ. What Christ asks of us is our righteousness towards him: our love of God and a deep relationship with him and our adherence to his laws, our loyalty to him, not to a set of beliefs about him or how a group of people worship him.
If we each are listening to God and what he is asking of us, and then joining with a group of like-minded Christians for community and support to do his will, and still listening to God first of all, that is what he asks of us. And he will bless us in all our endeavors.[Deuteronomy 7:12] All the competition among churches, the disdain and public preaching against other denominations will then fade—they are only of human concern, not of God’s.
So let’s deal in the truth: that we are one in Christ and that we must act like that, too. Our ability to adhere to God’s call to us is a sign of how attached we are to God’s ways over our human ways. If we are embracing fellow Christians no matter their beliefs or their denomination, we are following God’s will for the church, the one body of Christ. If we are competitive with other denominations and their beliefs, feeling better than them, we are not a part of the one body. And we still have a lot of very human inclinations to offer up to God for healing so that we can come into compliance, willingly, with his standards, with his church.
If I am, if we are true to God, all these issues would be resolved through his Indwelling Spirit’s guidance and counsel, through his healing and transformation.
Questions to ponder over the week: Do I take pride in my beliefs compared to other churches’? Do I put my church front and center in my life and God second? Or is God the primary influence in my life? What do I really think of Paul’s description of the church: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…. for you are all one in Christ?”
Blessing for the week: May we be the people of God who embrace the whole church of Jesus Christ. May we accept that there are legitimate differences in our beliefs, while we still worship the same God. May we be at peace with our fellow Christians.
My book, “Thy Kingdom Come!” is up on Amazon. Check it out under my full name, Patricia Said Adams or Patricia Adams, if you’re interested. If you’ve already read it, I would love for you to post a rating or comment on Amazon or Good Reads–the ratings bring in readers.
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 christianity.about.com/od/denominations/p/christiantoday.htm 3/1/16