MAKE US ONE
There are times when it seems as if the only thing we have in common in the Church is our love for our Savior; but after all, when all is said and done, should that not be enough?
If you look at the Church from a 30,000 foot altitude, we will all look the same, moving in the same direction. But ground level may well offer you a totally different picture. We may seem disjointed, divided, maybe even fractured. But, the truth of the matter is this, that God uses all manner of people to display His salvation story to the world. We do not all look alike, or sound alike or even think alike. Our heritage and culture and politics and upbringing can be vastly different from those around us. Yet, in spite of this, Christ has said to His Church, “figure it out, get along and fulfill your call as the Church.” He then set us in the middle of a crumbling world and said “go and make disciples .”
Year's ago, when pastoring in California, I would frequently have to drive the 175 miles from Fresno to Sacramento to attend meetings of boards on which I served. Most of the trip, especially around Modesto, was made up of miles and miles of grape vineyards. The rows were perfectly straight, both vertically and horizontally, and even diagonally. You saw virtually no variance in the rows. One trip, I stopped to take a closer look. Walking into the vineyard, I found a totally different picture. Some were bent and twisted, some were straight. The vines were very different one from the other. Some were complex in nature, others very simple. The vines and branches varied in size and length. It made me appreciate the one who planted such a vineyard all the more. There was truly a unity in the diversity. Wouldn't it be great if we could learn a lesson from that vineyard?
I have never had a problem with denominations, per se. I believe they grew out of a need for people to express their deeply held beliefs. Where the problem arises is when that denomination’s doctrine moves away from eternal verities and the teachings are not Biblically sound. Doctrines that are based on faulty interpretation, or on ones own agenda, or out of a political or cultural acquiescence or expediency, will quickly devolve into legalism, or worse, heresy. Then, even scriptures with room for different interpretations, become the points of division that will fragment the Church. At that point, such division and, all too often, conflict, will marginalize, neuter or even destroy the Church's ability to redeem the world through the Gospel message.
As the Church, we march under a very direct call. It's a call that comes directly from our Master and Lord. It's principles are not derived from, or driven by a political or social agenda, but by our Lord’s desire that “ none should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
I am, by no means, saying that we should not be conscious of the social issues in the world around us. I am saying, however, that they are not the primary mandate that drives the Church, or that sets it's agenda. Jesus did not come to this earth in flesh to heal the sick or feed the hungry, He came to “seek and save that which was lost.” Now He certainly did all those marvelous things while He was here, and it was motivated by His love and compassion. Even then, however, many times, His miracles were performed to help the multitudes realize who He was; the One sent from God to redeem and restore a fallen creation. Christ came for that reason, and He has called us, equipped us and sent us out with that mandate. With the Church it's a thing of mission and responsibility. Our mission is to “seek and save that which was lost”, and “make disciples”, our responsibility is to heal a broken, hurting world along the way.
It's truly a shame that such an important, vital, eternal task gets lost in all the minutia of our unimportant differences.
The message is crystal clear, the need is abundantly evident and the resources to accomplish the task are unlimited. If for only a short, blazing, brilliant moment, we could be the Church that God has called us to be, we could surely make a difference in the world around us. My prayer is that God will unite His Church in these last days that we might gather a great harvest into the Kingdom.