How seriously do we take unity within the body of Christ? Are we guilty of holding steadfast to our interpretations of the truth rather than the Truth Himself? Are our friendship groups filled with people that agree with us at every point? Have we made idols out of our ideologies?
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? (1 Corinthians 3:1-4 NKJV).
Sectarianism is described as the “excessive attachment to a particular sect or party, especially in religion”.
Theissueisnothavingstrongconvictions, infact,Paulexhortsthatweshould“nolongerbechildren,tossedtoandfrobythewavesandcarriedaboutbyeverywindofdoctrine…”,(Ephesians4:14NKJV)weshouldknowwhatwebelieveandwhy we believeit.
Christians should seek the truth diligently as we follow the One who is the Truth (John 14:6); however,sectarianismismoreinsidious.Sectarianism(withinChristianity)occurswhenthereisgreaterallegiancetoasetofbeliefsorvaluesthanthereistoJesus.
Aredifferentdenominationsortheologicalsystemsinherentlybad?No,Idon’tthinkso,theycanbehelpfulincharacterisingwhatapersonbelievesbasedon a diligentandspirit-ledstudyofthewordofGod.Itisimportanttonotethatbiblicaldenominationsaren’tbornoutofdifferencesintheprimaryissuesofChristianitybutthesecondaryissues.
Primary issues include the deity of Jesus, justification by faith, a literal heaven and hell and a trinitarian God. These are the “non-negotiables” of the faith, what we believe about these issuesisn’tupfordebate.Youeitherbelieveitoryoudon’tandwhatyoubelievepointstowhetheryourconversionisrealorfalse.
Theology is not for us to develop in the knowledge of God so that we can make enemies of all those that disagree with us, instead,weshouldbehumbledbythevastnessofourGodandrealisethereissimplynowaythatIcancomprehendHiminthislifebymyself.Insteadweoughttopraythatwe“maybeabletocomprehendwithallthesaintswhatisthewidthandlengthanddepthandheight–toknowtheloveofChristwhichpassesknowledge;thatyoumaybefilledwithallthefullnessofGod”(Ephesians3:18-19NKJV).
GodhasordaineditinHisinfinitewisdomthattogetherwewould try and comprehendthevastnessofHisloveforusinChrist.Imagine,ratherthanarguingoverwhethertonguesisaheavenlylanguage,allkindsofdenominationscomingtogethertoearnestlyprayforthiskindofunitywithinthebody.
Imostcertainlydonothavealltheanswers,butIbelieveinthescripturesGodhasgivenussomeinstructionsthatwillaidusinpromotingtheunitythat the Holy SpiritHimselfisforminginus.
Be slow to speak and quick to listen (James 1:17). When having conversations with people ensure you are listening more than you are speaking. Don’t hear to answer but listen to understand. Every disagreement doesn’t have to develop into an argument. In fact, we should strive for disagreements to not end up as arguments.
Develop relationships outside of your denomination/tribe. It’s very easy to demonise people you don’t know. Make friends with people that disagree with you. To paraphrase what Micah Fries said, “You have more in common with a Christian Iraqi refugee than you do with your best friend of 15 years that doesn’t know Christ”.
Promote peace. Psalm 34:14 ESV “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it”. We aren’t just exhorted to seek peace but to pursue it. In every situation.
Avoid foolish debate: 2 Timothy 2:23 ESV “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels”. Engaging in every debate is un-Christlike and most likely due to pride. We should endeavour to avoid all foolish debate because it only produces tension that obstructs unity.
It is my prayer that as believers we will be characterised as peacemakers eager to live in the unity that Jesus Christ bought for us with His blood. If we are all eager to promote peace, then we will undoubtedly live in unity.
God, help us to be eager to be united as you build Your church for Your glory. Amen.