Weekly Sabbath Survey
Biblical Unity — 7-12-2014
The Lord has me thinking about unity among Believers. The hundreds of warring denominations is only the tip of the iceberg. We have all seen people of the same church congregation or para-church (soup kitchen, under the bridge volunteering) with such bitter disagreements that some of them left the fellowship, and some are even forced out by the others. The ineffectiveness at attempts to save the world is a result of not having unity. Why is this?
1) We don’t understand the meaning of ‘unity.’ The definition of unity is not that we all think alike or agree on EVERYTHING. It means we have one single, important belief or goal that unites us and makes every difference pale into insignificance. For the Jewish people, it is their identity with the One True and Living God., the King of the Universe. It was so huge that it was not only a religious belief, it was a national identity. Judaism in the Bible had various sects that believed something specific that made them different from one another. Like our denominations. But they remained very aware that they were ALL Jews. No matter how much they disagreed, they never saw others as no longer Jewish. They called themselves The People of the Book. God’s Word and His charge to them to preserve it was a unifying belief. Some of them didn’t always do it, but there was always the faithful among them who held up the standard. It’s the reason why we have the Bible today.
When the church divorced itself from its Jewish beginnings, we lost that kind of unity. We became a misfit bunch from every tribe and nation that has agreed on just about nothing! Every time there’s an argument, we split. So rather than Believers uniting around the Word of God, it is many times the thing that divides us.We just don’t believe “kin by the blood of Jesus.” Do we?
2) We are not ONE in the bond of love. There’s a song about being one in the bond of love. A bond is a joining together, a covenant. A love bond is like a marriage. If we are ONE, we ought to automatically be in unity. Love makes us one. We wouldn’t be offended so much of the time. There would be no “divorcing” of one group from the others. We would heartily denounce churches or organizations that are not keeping the faith, not teaching what the Book says, but we would always accept an individual who claims to belong to Jesus, even if their chosen church might be unacceptable. We would exercise discernment and discipline in our own group by accountability and loving correction of one another. There are times when Christians commit serious sins. The devil is out to get us, but in the bond of love, we must do whatever we can to restore those gone astray: that one sheep that Jesus would not leave behind. We must never turn our backs on the sinners (demonized Christians), or even someone who is just being willful and self-indulgent or arrogant. We must speak the truth in love and restore them if at all possible.
3) Our structure and organization is counter-productive. Most of Christian churches (affiliated with a denomination or not) have the pattern of a strong leadership with weak followers. The pastor, elders, deacons are the ones with all the knowledge and/or power. They are elevated above the rest of us. Whether we do this to them or they do it themselves, it is wrong and impedes the working of the whole Body. Some “members” in the group are literally considered better than the rest of us. This leads to idolizing the leaders, laziness among the troops, or a lively competition for the few available positions, because only the ‘staff’ has any real responsibility and power of the ministry. The rest of us are left to show up on Sunday, greet one another politely, and put our check in the plate.
This is NOT covenant community, NOT the Body of Christ in full steam operation like the First Century Church. Certain persons may distinguish themselves in zeal for good works or a lifetime of service, but it shouldn’t be because they are educated and hired to do what they did. When we come together, where is the ‘one has a song, one a Scripture’ sharing that Paul set forth? The ministry comes from God’s Holy Spirit, not education or being appointed for a job. Oh, how we love the titles bestowed in ceremony and formality! Meanwhile, the real ministry of Jesus takes place in the quiet corners, in small groups, out in the world, where people who shun the spotlight in favor of the prayer closet minister to one another in the unity of the bond of love, and to others ‘out there’ in the power of the Holy Spirit to call people to Jesus through us..
Father, you are in me and I am in you, that they also may be ONE in us: that the world may believe that you sent me. John 17:21
Charlene Reams Manning
Believer in the Lord Jesus Messiah
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