The Church of Jesus is messed up because we’re the Church and we’re messed up, not because Jesus is messed up. And this is really good news.
There is much talk these days about the divisions in the church. Guess what; “these days” goes all the way back to the “first days.” In Acts chapter 6, right during the first big boom of growth, the Grecian Jews and Hebraic Jews were fighting over food and claiming discrimination. In some form or another, it’s kind of been that way ever since.
We are, to be sure, supposed to “pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14.)” But it’s not an empty peace that ignores hard stuff. The New Testament is full of the church wrestling with hard stuff, disagreeing and working through it. The rest of that passage continues, “see to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled;” No root of bitterness. This is key.
When we pause to consider our differences with brothers and sisters in Christ – about race, theology, politics, church governance, worship, social issues – we should step back and ask, “have I allowed a bitter root to grow up in my heart toward them?” I check myself daily on this.
The unity of the Church is not uniformity of thought. The unity of the Church is first, foremost and fully under one simple banner: Jesus Christ.
When we pray for the unity of the Church, we should pray, as Jesus did in John chapter 17: “That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…may they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Where is the unity? In the love between the Father and the Son – and in our being in him. I have found that if I will center my faith, and my time, on abiding in Jesus, I have what it takes to truly love my brothers and sisters in him.
I have strong and important disagreements with many of them. But I love them because I know Jesus loves them. As I am with him more and more, I learn his ways. This requires much of my time – and it’s worth it. Though he spoke strongly about truth, it was always full of grace and without any root of bitterness. He never stopped loving them. Neither should we.
Grace and Peace,