I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name–the name you gave me–so that they may be one as we are one. John 17:11
A girl about five years of age asked her mother if she could attend church with a friend who lived in the neighborhood. “No,” replied the mother in no uncertain terms. “And why can’t you visit my church with me?” asked the friend. Confusing the word, “abomination” with the word “denomination”, the small child explained, “Because Mommy says you belong to a different abomination.”
Question: Do you remember when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane under the gnarled olive trees? He prostrated Himself before the Father, sweating, as it were, great drops of blood, and prayed, “that they maybe one as we are one” (John 17:22). Just what did He mean? Does one mean “of one kind”? Or a oneness which comes because we are family and have the same Father in heaven?
Paul used different analogies in instructing the early church. In his letter to the Corinthians he likened the church to the human body. “The body is a unit,” he wrote, “though it is made up of many parts; and though its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12). Then he elaborated pointing out that your ear has no right to assert independence from the eye, nor your hand from the foot. You body is a whole, and all the components are related to each other.
Earlier in the same letter he rebuked the carnal or immature men and women because some followed Peter, some followed Apollos (a gifted orator and Bible teacher), some followed Paul, and some–perhaps with self-piety–said, “Oh, we follow Christ!” Then he asked a question, which, frankly, we need to ask ourselves today, “Is Christ divided?”
Some thirty times the New Testament speaks of the Church as the body of Christ. When he wrote to the Ephesians in a kind of model letter which he wanted other churches to follow, he said “there is one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). No wonder he charged, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
“Divide and conquer” is the adage of warfare, and it is still one of Satan’s most useful tools, turning husbands against wives, parents against children, dividing churches and groups over petty, trivial issues, and keeping God’s children from loving and embracing each other.
When John Nobel was thrown into a Russian prison during the Soviet days of repression, he began to discover that he could pray with Catholics and Orthodox believers along with others whom he would never have recognized as brothers, but the persecution broke down the walls of separation as they reached out to their Father in Heaven.
No, growing up I didn’t always agree with my siblings, but we would have fought to our deaths for each other because we were family, and blood bound us together. Sometimes I am asked, “Why are you helping us? You don’t belong to our denomination,” and I reply “because you are family and you have a need.” If you are redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ, you were baptized into that mysterious body called the Church, and whether those whom you scrutinize glorify the Father the same way you do or not, remember the decision to give them birth wasn’t yours, but was that of a Sovereign God who adopts and brings into His family those whom He chooses. Don’t forget it.
Resource reading: Ephesians 4:1-16.