What of This Thing Called Unity?

UnityI read a statistic some years ago. If anything, the number has probably grown larger.

At that time, there were some 35,000 different “Christian” churches throughout the world.

Think of that. In two thousand years, the Christian community has managed to splinter into so many diverse belief systems, that virtually anyone can pretty much choose their flavor of Christianity. Go into any American city, grab the Yellow Pages and see for yourself. Pages and pages of “denominations”.

What is at the basis of such a plethora of choices? Why nothing less than the honest belief on the part of each that they have “got it.” By got it, I mean, the true and correct understanding of the bible.

Add to that the incredible number of people, who (given the above) with some ( and I mean only some) justification, feel that they can cut to the chase so to speak and go to no “organized” church at all. If there are that many ways of interpreting scripture, then who is to say that I can’t do as well all by myself. Thus is born the non-denominational phenomenon, churches aligned to no recognized Protestant “church”, those that arise around the charismatic leadership of a single pastor and his/her personal interpretation, or the greatest non-denominational of all, the “unchurched,” but “spiritual” category.

The waters continue to muddy as the non-denominationals become mega churches themselves. In the end, a miasma of variety is offered to the average person that belies any “true” Christian faith at all. We truly are a Baskin and Robbins affair, replete with our own 31 + thousand flavors.

To be fair, any serious look at the early church shows pretty much the same picture. The Roman Catholic Church became the “winner” of the heresy wars, able in the end to define heresy as anything that we agree is wrong doctrine. All the others who had been arguing that they preached the “true” faith, faded into the history of doctrine that failed to win the day.

Truly, from the start, we have never agreed about what Christian doctrine is. This fact is recorded first in Acts when we learn that Paul and his followers had a much different idea of what Christianity consisted of than did Peter and those in Jerusalem. We are assured that  all was worked out amicably, but of course the bible we read today avoids the Gnostic “problem” and others. All those “other” Gospels float around from those earliest of days to suggest that there was always plenty of dissension among the believers that never got ironed out amicably or otherwise.

Yet Jesus talks to us of unity.

Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”

Jesus knew, as we all intuitively do, that in unity is power. Not the power of dominion and rule, but the power of persuasion. In their unity, they would illustrate forcefully that indeed the Father had sent Jesus to “save” us from ourselves. Save us, not in the unhealthy way of dying for our sins in some atonement sense, but save us from our own petty selfish selves by teaching us to live rightly.

We all know that the most powerful convincing tool in any arsenal is living the life one is preaching. Jesus really tried to teach us how to live. That convinces other more than anything we say. How do we live? How do we project the love that we know through this Jesus who lived and died so long ago? If our lives reflect a way of being that is attractive to others, then we truly preach the Gospel.

That is the unity. That is the template we should be seeking.

Instead we argue about doctrine all day and every day. We do this of course under the guise of proving that we are rightly interpreting this Jesus. It has never been and will never be about this thing we call a bible. That is a collection of human writings. It is and will always be about trying to live out the way of life as the Master announced to us. And quite frankly, much of that is pretty well understood by even the most limited of us.

Love God. Love each other. Take care of each other.

It’s all so very simply. All the rest, is as someone said,  is mere commentary.

What a powerful force we “Christians” could be, if only we simply lived as Jesus asked us to–in love.

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10 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. whatshotn
    May 12, 2013 @ 07:40:13

    Amen!!

    Reply

  2. Tim
    May 12, 2013 @ 13:36:14

    Sherry, your thoughts today remind me of something a friend of mine once said: Our denominationalism–and the pride we take in it–has reduced the Bread of Life to fodder for a bake-off contest. We’re all wrapped up in whose is the tastiest and looks the best and has the finest crust that we forget we’re all working from one main ingredient and however our little pies and cakes come out, if there’s to be any nourishment in them at all, it will come from Christ. (Of course, some of us have got so inventive, we’ve dreamt up recipes that substitute the main ingredient for ideas that are easier to digest.)

    We were never called to be contestants. Our prize (according to Paul) is “the high calling in Jesus Christ.” Doing the hard work of the gospel is its own reward. And when we try to outdo one another, we automatically lose.

    It fascinates me that Jesus could see this coming. And it saddens me that, with this foresight spelled out in today’s texts, we continue to ignore it.

    As always, a wonderful reminder here to get back to basics. Thank you!

    Peace,
    Tim

    Reply

    • Sherry
      May 13, 2013 @ 08:00:56

      Yes it is sad and your analogy to a bake off is so right on. Everytime I read about ecumenism, I shake my head. They argue about the most minute things, as if such stuff matters at all. The RCC and the mainstream Protestants have been at it for years, with little progress in a real way as I see it. It is all to be so deeply decried as so against what Jesus wanted for us. And yes, he did indeed seem to know we would fall into that trap. After all, he had such a perfect example in the Judaic church didn’t he? Blessings dearest of friends. !END

      Reply

      • aliceny
        May 13, 2013 @ 13:38:10

        Sherry,
        I just had to comment/reply to your and your friend Tim’s comments. Love the Bake Off analagy. Wish I were that clever!. I’ve read several of his comments on your blog here and like his thinking.

        Your reply to him is exactly what I’ve been thinking. It is uncanny, Sherry. I do enjoy reading intelligent thoughts written in plain, understandable English with no frills or pedantic gimmicks.
        And I respect that you ‘tell it like it is’ (ala the OT and current prophets).

      • Sherry
        May 14, 2013 @ 11:32:53

        oh gosh, it’s neat to find people who agree isn’t it? Tim is extraordinary. He has discontinued his blog Straight-Friendly but he still posts on FB a bit. He knows more than I do by about a factor of 10. !END

  3. aliceny
    May 12, 2013 @ 17:49:29

    Sherry, this is a wonderful post on an important subject – one that I have pondered for a long time. The situation seems to be escalating. I don’t think I will see any movement toward unity in my lifetime. I think that the Holy Spirit has been trying to get through to “The Church” but no one is listening.

    I followed through on the refernces you cited. Each had some interesting points to make.

    Here’s a reference to a whimisical but germane piece that you might want to check out. I think you will like it. It may even be available on Google:

    “Rag-Tag Army,” in: The Way of the Wolf:The Gospel in New Images. (New York:
    Ballantine Books), 1970, pp. 89-91

    Reply

    • Sherry
      May 13, 2013 @ 08:05:20

      Alice, I agree. We are not going in the right direct visa vie community, but rather we seem to be growing more and more apart. I should note that the “related” items at the bottom are ones that I haven’t read always myself but seem related to the general topic. You might find them good, bad or not on point in the least. Fair warning! lol..Occasionally one peaks my interest and I find a new blog that I must follow. Sometimes I draw people here from those links that are very much in opposition to what I say. It’s all good I figure. I’m a huge believer in reading a broad spectrum of opinion. Blessings! !END

      Reply

      • aliceny
        May 13, 2013 @ 13:25:40

        Thank you for your comments, Sherry. You are right on about reading other points of view. If we don’t remain open, we become inbred and stifle our ability to understand and grow.

        I checked Google yestereday. The little piece, Rag-Tag Army, IS available there.
        I think you’ll like it.
        Alice

      • Sherry
        May 14, 2013 @ 11:31:26

        appreciate it Alice! !END

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