Unity and Division in the Church: Attitude Matters!

the devotional thought of the day:

1  Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2  Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. 3  Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4  Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. 5  You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.   Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT)

3  Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. 5  There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6  and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all. Ephesians 4:3-6 (NLT)

For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church-whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church-do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them, it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body,21 and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.  (1)

Catholics, in their ecumenical work, must assuredly be concerned for their separated brethren, praying for them, keeping them informed about the Church, making the first approaches toward them. But their primary duty is to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ through the Apostles.

First off, i must state I am a Lutheran, specifically, a pastor of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. I am not a member of the Roman Catholic Church, though, I will admit that I pray regularly that the church would become one, again.  

We clearly see a call for that in the writings of scripture, and int he writings of the church throughout history.  The passages from Philippians and Ephesians above clearly show that, and point us to the fact that unity comes, not from our efforts in convincing the other side we are right, but from Christ, and in Christ.

Too often we deny this gift of unity; we deny that all the baptized are one family, as we indicate that their faith is not just in error, but that they aren’t saved because of it.  In doing so, we deny the very work of God!  How dare we!  I’ve seen it within denominations as well, heck even within my own brotherhood as the extremes indicate their concern for their brothers, and rather than love them, pray for them and bless them, they confront in anger, curse and deny God’s grace is truly theirs.  They are too willing to divide, and should you mention that our mission, given by God, is to reconcile people to Him, all people, you will join the ranks of them, and not longer be considered one of us.

In the writings of Vatican II I see a more effective way towards the church being one.   It acknowledges that faith and baptism unites one to Christ.  It acknowledges as well that there are obstacles, and often serious obstacles to the unity that is our in Christ.  But read what it says – in spite of these obstacles it is true – they are believers, God is working in them.   They are our brothers, they are fellow children of God, they follow Christ Jesus.

The next paragraph I quote is the most amazing statement I have ever read about church unity.  It notes that we must be concerned, and the way to live that concern out is not pointing out their errors, but in looking at our own. These words,

But their primary duty is to make a careful and honest appraisal of whatever needs to be done or renewed in the Catholic household itself, in order that its life may bear witness more clearly and faithfully to the teachings and institutions which have come to it from Christ through the Apostles.

We have to remove the beams from our eyes.  (And yes, we Lutherans have as many beams as any one else!) We have to hear God’s call to us to repentance, to confess our sins, to stop being so damn divisive, and focus more on the gospel of Christ Jesus.   To live and breath our dependence on God, to relish the sacramental times in our lives, to love God and with everything we are, adore Him.  Inclusive in this is how we love our brothers, even those who seek to divide our denominational home, or the Church itself.

It’s not easy, yo have this mindset of Christ.  It might mean that we die to ourselves, not over the line drawn in the sand.  It might be suffering and humility, it might mean struggling with letting ourselves be hurt and betrayed.

The only way to do it is to look first to Jesus, the author, and perfecter of our faith.  To depend on the promises He made us, to let the Spirit work in us, cleansing out our crap.

It’s not easy, but it is how God transforms us into the image of His son.

May we count on the Lord to answer our cry, Lord, have mercy on us, sinners!  AMEN!


(1)   Catholic Church. (2011). Decree on Ecumenism: Unitatis Redintegratio. In Vatican II Documents. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.

About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on March 31, 2016, in Devotions and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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