How do Christians come together in unity? This is probably one of those questions that has vexed many over the ages. How is it possible to show Jesus to the rest of the world when we have a hard time loving other Christians (John 13:35)?
It seems there are at least 200 official, distinct, denominations in North America alone with worldwide estimates of various sects being around 33,000. Many of these seem to be in existence because of issues arising from how one group sees some passages versus the other. However, this isn’t just about the traditional congregations that we all know. As I’ve continued my journey, I see many Christians outside of the institutions are just as divided as those inside. I’m not speaking to being united within a congregation alone but with all Christians that profess love for Jesus.
Now, there are those that would seek to promote their view over others and make their living by carving out their section of the Body, and those should be lovingly denied such an agenda. In fact, such a platform often profits off of proffering an “us versus them” dichotomy. This methodology only serves to divide and not unite. Many seem insistent on these divisions as it makes their views more legitimized whether they succeed or fail. If succeeding—God is blessing us because of our message; if failing—Satan is fighting us because of our message. Therefore, love for others of differing opinion is routed in catch 22 phrases that only alienate Christians from one another and justify our biases.
This call to unity, also, isn’t to rally together to fight the “barbarians at the gates.” This call to unity is to love God and each other so that we can live to our calling to spread that love, and love primarily, to the rest of the world.
Anyways, back to the topic at hand.
How do we move beyond our doctrinal differences into a love relationship with Jesus and each other?
I think the question answers itself—we move beyond our doctrinal differences and just love Jesus and each other.
But what if we’re absolutely convinced that we’re right and someone else is wrong and in danger because of it?
Here, I would say each situation is unique. The overarching principle that I’m beginning to understand though is—if someone is evidently in love with Jesus, then nothing else is worth causing division over.
I was studying, among other passages, Romans 14 again last night. Here Paul explains this better than I can. He talks about the cleanliness of food and special days. While the food concept may appear antiquated to us today, and the special days is almost such (though many still hold Sunday in high regard), the concept works well for our divisions today.
One man esteems one day as more important. Another esteems every day alike. Let each man be fully assured in his own mind.—Romans 14:5
Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who doesn’t judge himself in that which he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because it isn’t of faith; and whatever is not of faith is sin.—Romans 14:22-23
In the above, we see a very interesting concept. If we believe we are right, we should have it to ourselves before God. Interestingly enough, if we are made to doubt what we hold to be true, then we aren’t living out our faith in Jesus.
Therefore let’s not judge one another any more, but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way, or an occasion for falling.—Romans 14:13
Yet if because of food your brother is grieved, you walk no longer in love. Don’t destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.—Romans 14:15
So, it would seem that if we believe that we are right, we should live to that but not in a way that would harm our siblings in Christ. In other words, if we love with Jesus’ love, then those that we believe to be in error will be strengthened (14:19). Then, overtime, they may be able to better understand our point of view, but not to prove ourselves right. We may never agree on doctrinal concepts and that’s perfectly okay. My views have helped me to more easily love God and others and I believe that to be the point. If we insist that others aren’t Christian, don’t have the Holy Spirit, or are otherwise unsaved because of their views, we alienate our siblings and place stumbling blocks that may cause them to fall (14:13). In other words, if we insist that our interpretations are the absolute truth, and condemn others because they won’t perpetuate our beliefs, we may alienate them and/or ourselves from the love of Jesus.
In the past, I have put my beliefs out there, but these aren’t set in stone. They’re more of a snapshot of a step in my journey. For those that benefit from those views, great. For those who don’t accept them, feel free to toss them aside. I’ve mainly recorded my view as a way to think out loud and help others that may have the same thoughts rattling around in their head or heart.
Now to him who is able to establish you according to my Good News and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which has been kept secret through long ages,but now is revealed, and by the Scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known for obedience of faith to all the nations; to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.—Romans 14:24-26