Isn’t it true that when you try to push two magnets together that they actually “repel” each other? No matter how hard you try, you just can’t stick em’ together. They just blow each other away and won’t get close. It’s almost like they’re in a fight, and they hate each other.
That’s how it often feels when we strive for unity in the Body of Christ.
It’s interesting to think about the history of the Church. It started as this group of ragtag disciples that were risking their lives to stand up for Jesus, getting killed and socially shunned for their faith by the Roman and Jewish elites of their day, and meeting secretly in houses to worship the God of Heaven. (There are plenty of house church movements in the Middle East and Asia today that do the same thing, because their governments threaten the very existence of Christians).
Then came the Roman Emperor Constantine, who was a pagan, and had this dream during his time as a war general. In it he had a vision of the sun, with a big cross above it. So Constantine decided to have a “Chi Ro” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chi_Ro put on all his shields in the next battle he fought (technically not fully a cross- thanks for the research from Steve Motich!). He thought it was a sign from the Sun God Apollo, oddly merged with the symbol of Christianity. At that time the Romans were still killing and hating on Christians. But Constantine won the battle, and decided to pay homage by making Christianity the national religion of Rome. Oddly, everything shifted, and pagans began to be more socially chastised than Christians, though Constantine never officially persecuted pagans. After that came many years of ugliness in the history of the church; crusades, corrupt papal authority, and far more atrocious behavior in the name of Christ.
But one great thing was going on before the revolutionary Reformation movement started by dudes like John Hus and Martin Luther: There was ONE UNIVERSAL CHURCH! Granted, it was a corrupt, government centered tyrannical authority at times, but there weren’t as many distinct factions. Luther’s Reformation and translation of the Bible into common German language based on the Greek and Hebrew texts (instead of the Latin, which contained some bogus translations favoring the corrupt papal system of the time), spawned a huge movement. People could read and interpret the scriptures for themselves! But what inevitably happened? People decided to create a billion different sects of Christianity, based on both huge and little differences in theology. It was like a whole other tower of Babel, but this time the Church was scattered into different “sects” instead of people being scattered because of language. But we do think we all speak different “lingo” in our little “sects”, don’t we?
It’s no surprise. There are a lot of proclaimed “Christians” that I don’t agree with, because maybe they think that Jesus was some kind of ethereal deity, or that all religions are the same, or that we can be perfect just like Jesus was, or whatever else. But there are some things that we should be able to agree on.
How about this as a general doctrine: We believe that Jesus was the Son of God, born of the virgin Mary, fully God and fully human at the same time, was crucified, died, was buried, and on the third day rose again. We believe that those who believe in Him and His Father and surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit who speaks on their behalf, are called to obey Him and die daily to follow Him and His Father’s perfect Word.
There are no other deeply specific credentials for not being a “heretic” than that. Sure, we’re allowed to have our disagreements about some things. The ordination of women is a hot one that lots of people disagree on, and I’ve got my views on what I believe the scriptures say. Baptism is another one. Some disagreements are cultural, like: Do we play organ music, contemporary acoustic stuff, or alternative grunge rock? (Now, I like the raunchy rock stuff, but I appreciate old hymns and even some contemporary Christian tunes). Some arguments are heavier, like what does it mean to speak in tongues? What’s the tension between freewill and predestination? Etc., etc., the list goes on and on.
I could go on and on too. However, a lot of the reasons we divide are totally human. I’m looking in my phone book right now, and I counted 40 different listings for church denominations. I don’t even live in that big of a city, I actually live in kind of a large college town. But right in between Christmas Trees and Cigar and Tobacco Retailers- there’s the church listings: 40 different denominations. There’s even like four different brands of some denominations: Baptist, Free Will Baptist, Independent Baptist, Southern Baptist, Church of God, Church of God- Anderson, Indiana, Church of God- Cleveland Tennessee, Church of God in Christ. MAN! The list goes on and on!
I’m not saying that some of these factions aren’t necessary. But do you know how much mudslinging is going on between these denominations? We’re like a bunch of corrupt politicians! We all think that we’re a part of the best “sect”, don’t we? But do we ever dialogue to see what we have in common? What if we even had the most perfect theology? If we were closer to “perfect theology”, then I think we’d be willing to love and speak the truth to anyone, and the people who were false about their faith in Jesus wouldn’t want anything to do with us, simply because of our conviction and love.