Posts Tagged denomination

Discrimination

Galatians 3:28

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Boy, do we need to get a revelation of this! This is what I call tough love, which usually amounts to being told what we do not want to hear.

Most of us do not want to hear what we need to hear. We will even shy away from the people who are best able to guide us. It is hard to face ourselves at times. Better to hide from the truth than face those uncomfortable revelations. Well, this verse is one of those revelatory mirrors which reflects a face most of us would rather avoid. Discrimination within our ranks.

The early church leaders had a job on their hands reconciling the Jewish believers and the gentiles who were flocking to the message and person of Jesus. The Jews had lots of rules they wanted the new converts to adhere to. They definitely thought of themselves as superior to the gentiles. After all, they were the children of Abraham and those gentiles had probably never even heard of Abraham.

In this new covenant, this new dispensation, all kinds of people are treated as the beloved of God. Each person is recognized as an heir to the promises. See that this includes women. It also includes slaves and Greeks. Frankly, it includes everyone. God is not one to show partiality (Deuteronomy 10: 17, Acts 10: 34). It is easy to read this passage as told to someone else. We can sit quietly by and watch them be rebuffed. However, let’s apply this to our world. What does it mean to us today?

We are all one in Christ. That means that Episcopalians and Methodists are meant to be brothers. Lutherans and Baptists are all one in Christ. And even Catholics. Yep. It is time we got off of our high horse and begin to love one another. Whose theology is perfect? Yours? Then why are we all called to continue learning and growing? The key words here are “in Christ.” That is where we are supposed to be. It is not a goal to be attained to be a good Baptist or a good Catholic. The goal is to be “in Christ” and to help others to be in Christ too. We are supposed to lead people into a relationship with Jesus. This is not a private club, as the Jews found out. And while we are about it. God still loves the Jews. Don’t think He doesn’t. He wants them to hear and embrace the good news about Jesus, who himself was a Jew.

God does not see all of these labels that we use to categorize people. He sees hearts. He doesn’t care what you call yourself or what others call you. He is attracted to all those who love Him with an honest, sincere heart. And just in case you wondered, I don’t care either. If you love Jesus, you are alright by me. That is this ministry’s official position, that we do not love according to labels. Your denominational affiliation is between you and God. I just want you in a church that teaches you the Word and supports you. I hope you are in a church which understands today’s scripture and is doing all it can to eradicate denominational prejudice. And for that matter, that includes every other type of discrimination. All people are welcome in the house of God and in this ministry. Come all who are weary and heavy laden. Jesus wants to wrap himself around you and give you his rest. Enter into his rest. Enter into his love, regardless of your label. Check your label at the door and just be free in Christ. God loves you! Those are the important words.

Unity v. Uniformity

1 Peter 2: 1 – 2

Therefore, putting aside all malice and all guile and hypocrisy and envy and all slander, like newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.

We have all heard the sermons based on this scripture. I have no doubt that you could talk about its meanings and implications for quite a while yourself. I want us to look at this slightly differently today. Let us pull back from its application to us as individuals to a more global level. How does this scripture affect us as the body of Christ rather than just as Christians?

While we are all called to Christ by Yahweh, the Father of our Lord, we are also divided along many lines: denominational, theological, cultural, geographical and more. Sometimes I think there is more that divides us than that which unites us. Few would disagree, though, when I say that what unites us is much more important than that which divides us. Is this a call for unity, then? Absolutely, but that idea is so esoteric that as we devolve back to our daily, individual lives, it may be difficult to discern the larger implications of our individual thoughts, words and actions. I believe that as we close in on the end of this age, the age which is to usher in the return of the Lord Jesus, it is imperative that we find the means by which to lay aside our differences and to come together as a unified body of believers.

The beginning of such a move is imbedded in the end of today’s passage: “[L]ike newborn babes, long for the pure milk of the word, that by it you may grow in respect to salvation.” As we yearn for the pure milk of the Word, as we feed on it as on mother’s milk, we unavoidably grow.” There is no way you can feed your spirit on the Word of God and remain an infant. However, if you only feed your brain and intellect on the Bible, you will not necessarily grow. This longing for the Word comes from the deep places of our soul. It is not a pursuit knowledge but rather a quest for the Lord Jesus himself. When we long for his Word, we find him. In that finding is the growth in the fullness of salvation, remembering, of course, that this salvation applies to every facet of life: saved in your health, saved in your finances, saved in your family relationships, saved in your occupation. It means fullness in every one of those areas and all others as well. The more filled up we become with the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father, then the less our differences matter. We become united by that which is important and recognize that the dissimilarities in doctrine and belief are the Father’s problem rather than ours.

From that revelation comes the unity and it immediately applies itself to the former portion of the verse. No longer do we feel a need to slander another denomination or belief system. There is no more room for malice and guile. In these latter days it is important that we allow the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives, personally, and in our assemblies. Even firmly structured denominations will find the need, and the impetus, to incorporate flexibility and acceptance. Jesus said to gather in the tares with the wheat and let the Father sort it out. In other words, we do not have to bear the responsibility of who gets saved and who goes to hell. That is all on the Father. We can even let people into our congregations that seem different. If the truth were to be known, few people in our denominations or even in our own congregations agree with every fiber of our doctrine anyway.

If the Church of Jesus Christ is to be fitted together as a Holy Edifice for our Father, then we must not reject one another. Each brick may be slightly different. The miracle is not in our uniformity but rather in our cohesion. Therefore, let us bite our tongues in criticism of other Christian groups or denominations. Let us individually abandon our superiority complexes in favor of acceptance. Only together are we the body of Christ. Individually, we are just a severed, lifeless body part. Malign no one nor group. Let the unfavored have a place and a voice. Embrace all who believe in Jesus as the Christ and Lord. Seek the pure milk which is Jesus as the Word and include all other seekers. We can now put aside the childish things, as Paul declared (1 Corinthians 13: 11), and take our positions as strong pillars of faith.