A Unified Church

Suppose, for a moment, that a Christian wholeheartedly believes that the successful and blessed Christian life must include a particular type of music, these types of friends, this genre of books, this outreach of ministry, this type of clothing . . . the list goes on and on. Additionally, suppose that, in this person's eyes, a right relationship with God requires the adherence to these beliefs, and any person not in compliance with this particular set of standards is on the slippery slope to perdition--or, at the very least, isn't able to hear from God at the same acute level. Now, multiply this scenario by the amount of denominations, sects, and creeds that hold to the Bible as their sacred text and to God as their Father, and we begin to get an idea of the current state of the universal Church.

To assume that one set of convictions is "the most excellent way" which incurs the most favor from God also communicates that God only blesses and works through that same set of circumstances. So many denominations and individuals decry themselves as the best, implying that God is incapable of working His redemption and salvation in the church across the street or around the corner to the same extent. Families judgmentally look down on those with looser--or stricter--convictions, focusing more on rote than relationship, and more on God's hand than His face.

This perspective has incurred a terrible toll on the church today. To condemn fellow believers because they believe differently than we do, even when the beliefs of both parties are based on Scripture, does more than harm the body of Christ and alienate believer and nonbeliever alike. It limits God by seeking to define Him and confine Him to boundaries which are too narrow. It implies that God is not capable of working personally, both physically and spiritually, in the hearts and lives of others in different places. It reduces the King of the universe down to a formula to be followed. Above and beyond the ramifications that this belief has on the unity of the Church, this sad fact is the greatest tragedy of all.

The early church had the same problem: "Now, I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment . . . Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I am of Apollos; and I am of Cephas; and I am of Christ. Is Christ divided?" (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).

Does the modern-day Bride of Christ endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Are we one, even as Christ and His Father are one? More often, I hear, "I am of John Wesley," "I am of Martin Luther," "I am of the Baptists," "I am of the Presbyterians," "I am of Billy Graham," "I am of John Piper" . . . and the fighting goes on.

"There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

Biblically, little debate can go on if it falls into one of the seven categories above. God has established clear direction for these tenets. This writing, however, is a call to unity in the body of Christ, in the categories that Paul wrote above, and in interactions with other believers as well. Let us major on the majors, and minor on the minors. And let us say together, "I am of Christ."


An Everything God

Basing all actions and outlooks on Scripture is not only possible, but is absolutely necessary. Every decision, every activity, can be firmly rooted in the belief that God not only cares about that decision or activity, but desires to direct it and be involved in it on a personal level.

Our outlook and perspective on the principles and convictions of everyday life define our outlook and perspective of God Himself. So many times, Christians draw a nice little box that holds all their beliefs and tenets: Saturday or Sunday? Sprinkling or dunking? Wine or grape juice? Piano or a cappella? Culture or convent? The debates rage, with believers drawing their lines in the sand and staunchly declaring, "This, and no other."

I firmly believe that Biblically based living is necessary and vital. If I do not and cannot live my life according to God's work of redemption in me, it ceases to have substantive significance in my life.

The moment, however, that I draw a line in the sand and state that this particular set of convictions are based on Scripture, and that every other perspective falls outside the realm of Biblical basis, I confine my estimation of God to the same lines in the sand.

Part of this discussion, I suppose, boils down to a definition of terms and an application of those terms to daily life. There are the commands of Scripture: the "Thou Shalts" and the "Thou Shalt Nots"; the ones that amount to "This, and none other" from the mouth of God Himself. These commands are more than lines drawn in the sand. They are the immovable walls of the Bible, built on the bedrock foundation of Christ Himself. Conversely, there are the convictions based on Scripture: The working of God in and through the individual life of a believer, revealing an aspect of Himself through the application of that conviction. To say that one size fits all goes against the nature and wildness--the awesome greatness--of God.

The best illustration that comes to mind is C.S. Lewis's "The Chronicles of Narnia" series. When describing the great lion Aslan, Beaver declared that Aslan was not a time lion. He went on to say, " 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

Not a tame lion. Neither is our King of the Universe measurable, definable, or understandable. My outlook on God and His place in the world is communicated through my personal culture. Conversely, my personal culture is a reflection of my relationship with God and how I understand HIm to be at work in the world.

As I stop and evaluate my own little lines in the sand, I realize that I, too, fall into the trap of viewing life from my set of convictions and beliefs and background in my little corner of the world, rather than trying to see it from God's perspective. Have you created a god that fits in your own little box, or do you passionately believe--and order your life by the belief--that our God is an awesome God?

"For the Lord Most High excites terror, awe, and dread; He is a great King over all the earth. . .Let them confess and praise Your great name, awesome and reverence inspiring! It is holy, and holy is He!" (Psalm 47:2, 99:3, Amplified)