Some will say that denominations are unnecessary and actually hinder the commission of Christ to the universal Church. I submit that denominations are not perfect in any way, however, their existence is more important to the complete fulfillment of the commission of Christ.
I don’t think we completely embody God’s idea of the church. The way I understand it, we’re meant to be one cohesive unit, where each person is an essential part. What I see happening is some people get put on a higher pedestal than others.
I’m going to come right out and say it: As a more liberal Christian, I struggle with accepting my brothers and sisters in Christ who hold more conservative values. The reason is honestly the most ironic and hypocritical one possible. From my point of view, I cannot understand for the life of me, how conservative Christians see their views as reflecting the love of Jesus Christ. So what do I turn around and do? I do a poor job of loving them, that’s for damn sure.
I am not patient.
I am arrogant.
I am rude.
I do insist on my own way.
I am irritable.
I am resentful.
1 Corinthians 13 (ESV) outlines what love is, and as shown above, I really fail at loving my conservative brothers and sisters. I may be cynical, and I may like to write about where Christianity is failing to live up to what God is calling us to, but I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t include myself in that at least sometimes.
In John 17, Jesus is praying just before being betrayed and arrested. In about the middle of the prayer, he prays the following:
“I do not ask for these only, but 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 17:20-23, ESV).
Jesus prayed that we, the disciples of his disciples (however many generations removed), would be one just as He and His Father were one. In a word, Jesus prayed for: unity. He prayed that as we live out our lives in Him, that we would also do so with one another, indiscriminately. However, we tend to make the mistake of living in uniformity rather than unity. There is a distinct difference.
1. the quality or state of being uniform (adj. not changing in form or
character; remaining the same in all cases and at all times.).
Uniformity requires that we all be the same. There’s currently more than 30,000 denominations within Christianity, each new one popping up becoming further proof that we simply can’t stand the thought of being around and worshipping with those who believe differently. Essentially, we’re saying “the way they’re doing it over there is wrong, so let’s do it right over here, without them.” The idea of denominations is a bit more nuanced than that, and there’s some value to worshipping with those who believe similarly, but I believe my point still stands. The big C Church contains a multitude of ideas, a plethora of interpretations of scripture, yet we decide to separate ourselves based on these. Uniformity lacks unity.
1. the state of being united (adj. joined together politically, for a
common purpose, or by common feelings) or joined as a whole.
Our common purpose, the thing that unites us, the thing that joins us as a whole, is Jesus Christ on the cross. A man, who was also God’s son and divine himself, came down to Earth because we were (and still are, frankly) screwing things up quite badly, and died so that we may have life, and a relationship with our Father in heaven. We have immense hope in Jesus, yet we fail to be unified through this man. We separate ourselves ideologically while we still have a common purpose.
Jesus Christ, our common purpose, prayed that we would be one, that we would be unified. We need to remember that in our daily interactions. We need to stop disparaging one another on the basis of differing views, whether it be infant vs. adult baptism, whether or not we should accept Syrian refugees, whether we should affirm gay Christians or not, whether drinking is sinful or not. None of that truly matters. We don’t have to accept what others believe, but we sure as hell have to accept the people who believe it.
I’m a jacked up individual, and I screw this up a lot. I get frustrated and impatient with people who view things differently than me. I’ve even accused people of not being Christian because of their views. I suck at this, hardcore. This blog post isn’t just a call for Christianity to do better, it’s a confession. I, in my heart and in my actions, would prefer to have uniformity rather than unity. But the reality is, what Jesus wants is unity. I profess Jesus Christ to be my saviour, and I want to follow him to the end.
All I can do now is pray that Holy Spirit will work in me.
All I can do now is pray that I’ll be given a heart that yearns to be unified with and to love those who don’t see things the way I do.