It seems everywhere I look I see a different church denomination. Baptist, Mennonite, Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Baptist, Free-Will Baptist, Independent Baptist, Amish, Baptist, Old-Order Mennonite, Amish, Eastern Orthodox… I hardly got started and I already missed that other Baptist one.
Each of these split off some other group in the course of history over something. Maybe it was a disagreement, or the color of Jello you were allowed to bring to the church picnic. But more likely, it was simply that some people didn’t love each other. The Prophet was too black-and-white to get along with the Encourager, and the Teacher was too proud to receive from the Giver, and somehow the bitterness festered until each had their own followers and sides were taken and lines were drawn in the sand and the duel continued until they had amassed enough dislike to justify as a reason for official division and… well, they quit worshiping together.
Mostly we divide due to distrust and dislike… distrusting that the other is honest enough before God to really believe what he says he believes (probably because I am not that honest before God), and dislike for the challenges another person brings to my comfort level.
And then there is judgement: he doesn’t really believe ’cause if he did, he’d pray louder; Or he prays that loud because he is self-righteous. And once we start judging their motives any excuse for division is spiritual enough.
It’s ironic that Jesus prays we will be one as He and the Father are one because our unity will prove to the world that He is with us, and then we go make sure the world doesn’t see it. Interestingly, our division PROVES the LACK of Christ’s presence in our midst and yet normally both sides of the division believe they are more spiritual than the other. If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we HAVE fellowship one with another! (1 John 1:7 Emphasis mine)
Here is a story that has been with me for years:
A small group was studying the bible together and came upon the verse that admonished the Christians to be united. And immediately they stared discussing how they could be more united. Maybe if they agreed on a dress standard, or defined acceptable practices. But as soon as they tried to nail down the dress standard, disagreements arose. Some thought jeans for women were okay, some thought man should wear beards, but never did they all agree. Finally a wise man said: “lets go home and pray about this until next week.”
So they all went home and prayed. Next week they gathered again and the group leader asked: “did God speak to anyone on unity?” An older gentleman answered: “well, I did have a dream. In this dream, we were all gathered together and were working hard at living in unity. And I said, ‘but Jesus that is what we are doing, isn’t it?’ And Jesus answered: “yes!” Then I had another dream. In this dream all the sheep were thronging to the shepherd, and I noticed that the closer they got to the shepherd, the closer they were to each other. It was then I realized, if we all eagerly crowd around Christ, we will be as united as we can possibly get.
End of story, but I think the moral of the lesson is this: If we seek unity for the sake of unity, we will lose it, but if we are willing to even lose unity for the sake of Christ we will find it. Have a familiar ring to it? Well that principle applies to many areas of life.