Struggling with Division in God’s Church… WIll We Die With Him?
Devotional Thought of the day
8 Always remember that Jesus Christ, a descendant of King David, was raised from the dead. This is the Good News I preach. 9 And because I preach this Good News, I am suffering and have been chained like a criminal. But the word of God cannot be chained. 10 So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen. 11 This is a trustworthy saying: If we die with him, we will also live with him. 12 If we endure hardship, we will reign with him. If we deny him, he will deny us. 13 If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is. 14 Remind everyone about these things, and command them in God’s presence to stop fighting over words. Such arguments are useless, and they can ruin those who hear them. 2 Timothy 2:8-14 (NLT)
Augustine tells us that, one day, he tore himself away from his friend Alipius in order to be alone in the garden with his misery, his temptations, his inner conflict. In that moment of overwhelming agitation he thought he heard a child’s voice calling repeatedly to him: “Tolle et lege—Take and read!” He arose, found a Bible, and read these words: “Put on the Lord Jesus!” This was the turning point of his existence. Augustine had, in that moment, discovered the word of God. (1)
Over the years I have spent in ministry, I have struggled with how we deal with division, denominationalism and sectarianism in the church.
Some have the ancient answer, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials freedom(liberty), in all things charity (love, grace, mercy.) The problem is that they divide soon after based on what is essential, and insisting on non-essentials, and dismissing charity as being weak.
Others handle the division by misquoting Romans 16:17, and the idea that we should toss aside those with heretical and even heterodox doctrines. I say this because the context includes causing divisions in the church by use of these doctrines, these teachings. Whether they be teachings about theology or practice. Heretical meaning that they are against God and His desire to save all of mankind. Heterodox meaning that they aren’t giving glory to God in their teaching and practive as God deserves.
I’ve been part of both groups at times, and I can tell you the sincerity and intent of both groups are noble. Even as they fail to apply it properly. In being a participant and observer of this, I have reached a conclusion.
We are all broken. We all have our heretical and heterodox practices. As we all have those things that glorify God in their holiness, proving God has set us apart for Himself Even in the beloved churches I’ve been blessed to be part of, whether it was St Joe’s – Salem NH, St. Francis Church in Lawrence, MA, First Baptist, Salem, The Crystal Cathedral youth group, OVBC, North Orange Christian, Arrow Hwy Wesleyan, West Valley Christian, First Christian YV, Good Shepherd Lutheran YV, Shepherd of the Valley, Anze, and now Concordia Lutheran – Cerritos. I’ve named them all for a reason; I can think of people in each of those church’s who were holy and broken. Whose doctrine needed to conform to Jesus, and yet who Jesus worked through in diverse and yes, miraculous ways. Who indeed needed to grow, but were growing.
So how do we do this? How does a splintered, fractured church see Christ’s church? Does it welcome people of all beliefs and say that doctrine and practice don’t matter? Does it instead force everyone to become clones? I can’t agree with either perspective. Indeed, I think both extremes of full inclusion and full exclusivity miss the mark. That’s being nice; I believe both are sinful.
If we can admit we have areas of our theology and/or practice that are broken, then we have some hope.As we find healing for our brokenness in Jesus, that healing will bring us the unity we need.
We have the opportunity to do what Paul was setting as an example for Timothy. We remember His death and resurrection, and the fact that He has united us to Him, bonded Himself to us in that event, so that we can know life, both now and everlasting.
This is what made the difference, this gospel, in Augustine’s life. To see, to hold in your hands the story of God’s love for you, revealed! That is our turning point and over and over in our lives we need to have it. The best example I can think of is a swordsmith, who folds the steel over and over on itself – each time gaining more strength. So too as we remember Christ, as we hear and read and speak of His love, that strengthens us. As we hear of the promises given to us in baptism, that strengthens us, as we eat His Body and drink His Blood we again encounter His presence, a presence that leaves us in awe, as we realize His mercy and love.
This is our God, here in our lives. Listen to Him, Know Him….
And as that happens, the issues that divide us that shouldn’t fade, and we will realize a unity not based on our faith, but His faithfulness. And together we can cry, “Come, Lord Jesus!” AMEN
(1) Ratzinger, J. (1992). Co-Workers of the Truth: Meditations for Every Day of the Year. (M. F. McCarthy & L. Krauth, Trans., I. Grassl, Ed.) (p. 327). San Francisco: Ignatius Press.
Posted on October 14, 2015, in Devotions and tagged Abiding in Christ, apostolate, brokeness, Communion, conversion, Denominations, ecumenicism, faith, sectarianism, transformation, Word and Sacrament. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.