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.

Chill Pill

Titus 3: 9

But shun foolish controversies and genealogies and strife and disputes about the Law; for they are unprofitable and worthless.

Don’t you love how Paul minces words? This letter is to Titus who is one of the pastors trained by Paul for the work of the Gospel. Paul tells him plainly not to get involved in quarrels over the law because those arguments are worthless.

I believe very strongly that at the end of the day, we are all congregations of one. By that I mean that there may well be no other person on earth who believes exactly the same way you do on every single question of the Bible, doctrine and theology. But . . . who cares? God has called us into unity despite our differences in opinions and Paul teaches us that controversies over these differences are foolish. The word “silly” keeps coming to my mind. Some of you have heard me say this before but I imagine us all getting to heaven, running up the Father and laying our arguments before Him in a demand to know who is right. I can see Him shake His head sympathetically as He tells us we were all wrong.

That image helps me to remember not to judge another. I love to seek answers and I love to delve into the deep things but Paul said another thing that really speaks to this problem of unity or division over the things of God. He wrote, “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified,” (1 Corinthians 2: 2). This is the point of agreement and this is where we should hang our hats. Let there be consensus among us to agree upon that which we agree upon and give one another room to receive further instruction and revelation from God about everything else. You may think I am wrong about something. Okay. We are both learning and growing and how we think today, hopefully, is not exactly how we will think next year. I intend for us all to be more mature and further along in our Christian walk by then.

If one of your friends has a very divergent view from you about something in the Bible, it’s okay. Their theology is not going to send you to hell so don’t worry about it. Pray for God to pour out new revelation upon you both and He will. And here is the kicker, they just may be right. If so, God will teach you when you are ready. Neither being right nor being wrong is a reason for division. Neither gives us license to judge the other person. Moreover, someone else’s beliefs aren’t going to condemn you. Only your beliefs condemn you.

So, relax. Take a chill pill. Resolve to agree on Jesus as Lord and King. Determine to celebrate the life of our beloved. I think you will find that when you do, a lot of that other stuff just isn’t as important anymore.