The church has a problem. It is splintered. Fractured. Broken through separation.
And it’s pretty much all our fault.
We have allowed all sorts of things to come between us when Jesus commands that we be united as one.
So where did these separations come from, and what can we do to reunite the Body of Christ?
The Letter And The Love
Separation in the church is nothing new. Even 2000 years ago as the church was just getting its start, we had separation.
The early believers, right from the Day of Pentecost forward, dealt with disunity among the believers. Some of the Jews being converted to Christianity had been so zealous for Judaism that they refused to give up their customs and practices. Instead, they wanted to add Christ to what they were already doing.
In essence, they were saying that while Christ made a nice addition to their Judaism, He was not quite enough to stand on His own and liberate us from the bondage of sin.
Things went from bad to worse when Peter was brought to the house of a Gentile named Cornelius. Peter understood from his vision that God had made clean both Jews and Gentiles and that God was showing no partiality by sending the Holy Ghost upon both Jews and Gentiles.
The Gentiles received the grace of God with joy, but the Jews who were holding on to their old traditions weren’t so happy to accept Gentiles who had only days before been unclean to them.
In fact, these Jewish believers decided that they needed to add something to what God had done. They believed that in order for a Gentile to accept the salvation of God, they also had to be circumcised.
Fortunately, the church had strong leadership in Peter and James and quickly dealt with this issue, but even then, there were some Jewish believers who were not convinced and who separated into their own sects of Christianity with strong ties to the Judaism they were comfortable with.
Because of their love of religion, they were more comfortable with the letter of the law rather than the pure grace and love of the Father and simply were unable to accept the freedom and liberty Christ had brought them through His atoning sacrifice on the cross and His resurrection.
That they were believers, I have no doubt. They were simply so rooted in the past that they could not accept their own emancipation.
Fast Forward 2000 Years
We no longer have Jews who want all Christians to be circumcised before they can consider themselves disciples of Jesus Christ, but we still have division among the various churches in the Body of Christ. Actually, because of the various interpretations of passages in the Bible, we have even more disunity than ever before, thanks to the new separation of denominational distinctives.
Then, to take it even further, within those denominations that have separated themselves, we have the added division caused by racism in the church. White churches dealing with white issues and black churches dealing with black issues.
All while we forget that there is one Body with Jesus Christ as the Head.
Finally, to heap flaming coals on top of all that, the church has remade itself into an instrument of political, legislative and socio-economic change instead of what it was designed to be by Jesus Christ.
Have we forgotten whose church it is? Are we actually as self-absorbed and arrogant as to believe that it is our church? Do we really believe we have the right to alter the purpose of the church from worship, evangelism and spiritual formation to politics, law making and the economic growth of our communities?
I am not saying that those things are wrong and that we shouldn’t pursue peace and community growth. I am simply separating those activities from the Biblical purposes of the church.
The church is supposed to be an instrument of change in our world, but only as we produce spiritually mature disciples of Jesus Christ. Then, it is the responsibility of those disciples to go out from the church and implement change in our communities by introducing Christ to a lost and dying world.
Why should we settle for the temporary change that can be found through politics, law-making and economic development when we can effect permanent, eternal change in people’s lives by making disciples of all nations?
Winning And Losing
Here’s the thing: Even if the church is able to effectively break down the political, legislative and economic barriers that currently hold us back, the church will have failed in it’s mission.
Namely, to preach Christ crucified and resurrected.
No matter what else the church can accomplish, if it fails to do that, it has become powerless and ineffective.