(Today's post by Adam Cooper)
I find that the Lord must have a sense of humor. Those of you who know my story know how ironic it is that I am writing today about the unity of the Church. For those of you who do not know my story just suffice it to say I have witnessed my share of disunity within the Church. I have seen personalities, mis-interpreted doctrine, jealousy, hypocrisy, and of course pride cause riffs in the Body of Christ. Just like Christ was pierced and torn by sinful man I have watched sinful man pierce and tear apart the Body of Christ. This behavior and division within the Body of Christ saddens me deeply.
Let’s put this disharmony or disunity into perspective for a moment. The body is an amazing machine that was created by God in His image. This machine has certain ideal settings that were programmed into our DNA by the creator. If these settings are off or if that strand of DNA is modified or thrown out of sync in any way the body begins to malfunction; cancer, illness, physical problems, mental problems, and more.
So it is with the Church. We come to Christ through no effort of our own other than to believe and repent and have faith (please do not make this a discussion on predestination because that is for another day.) When we come to Christ we are blessed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and are given gifts through that indwelling that allow us to perform duties within the Body of Christ. In vv.11-13 Paul touches on this (I like the way the NIV reads in this verse), “11 It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 discusses the gifts of the Spirit more and solidifies the fact that not everyone in the Body of Christ is gifted with the same abilities BUT each of those gifts and abilities is vital to the proper functioning of the Body of Christ. When those gifts and abilities are being misused or not used or abused the Body of Christ responds much like the human body and doesn’t function properly. Begin soapbox moment: I appeal to everyone who may read this to understand that the current church age is one of disunity and we need to repair it. We need to stop worrying about being Methodist, or Baptist, or Presbyterian, or Lutheran, or Catholic, or Pentecostal, or non-denominational and worry more about being a Christian; worry about being more Christ-like much like Paul is saying in vv. 2-6, “2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul is telling us that we need to come to the full realization of the unity Christ intended for us so that we are no longer “tossed back and forth” or “blown here or there” by the disunity that exists around us; by the immaturity that comes from all of the infighting and second guessing and un-Christ-like behavior. End soapbox moment.
Paul even goes further to hammer this point home in vv. 17-19, “17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” The remainder of Chapter 4 places the exclamation point on Paul’s entire treatise but I feel like the first two verses in Chapter 5 are the icing on the proverbial cake, “1 Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
So where does that bring us in today’s language or meaning? What from this is meaningful for us?
Again, I am drawn to those first two verses in Chapter 5. “Be imitators of God.” We are to imitate God; the one and only God, the one true God. And again back to verses 4-6 in Chapter 4, “4 There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to one hope when you were called– 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” The hinge-pin for all of this is “ONE.” God is ONE God existent in three distinct entities. The Church is ONE Church existent in too many entities (denominations) to count. We must strive to bring unity among the Christian churches just like there is unity in the Holy Trinity. God intended us to be one body, under Christ, using each and every one of our blessed gifts to bring about God’s will here on this Earth and until we are able to accomplish this we will continue to live in the immaturity of our beliefs “tossed back and forth” or “blown here or there” by the whims of our misunderstanding.
Are you guilty of furthering inter-denominational disharmony at any point in your Christian walk?
How can we help bring about inter-denominational unity in today’s Church?