Christ is not Divided - A Discussion on Essentials (Part Two)

We know God’s people, not by them agreeing with us hook, line and sinker on every issue we believe.

One thing I love about the Church of Christ/Christian Churches is our heritage.  Early on, one of the driving statements of our movement was the traditional church statement, “In essentials, unity.  In opinions, liberty.  In all things, love.”  We were the first non-denominational movement in the world, and now non-denominational churches are the fastest growing churches in the land.  The problem is that we have strayed from being non-denominational into being a denomination.  Some people in the Church of Christ will not even accept the non-denominational churches as being on the right track because they are not non-denominational the way we are.

Some of us have become more sectarian than the sectarianism of the denominations our movement was founded to free the church from.  We claim to have no book but the Bible as our guideline for fellowship and the faith, but we all too often place our interpretations of pet Scriptures or even beliefs that are not even expressed in Scripture as issues of fellowship.  In denominational churches, they typically have handbooks that describe what the church believes, what it requires to be a leader in the church, and how people in the church should live.  We have no handbook outside of Scripture, but all too often, we have erred in making unwritten, ever-changing handbooks, a handbook just as legalistic as those in the denominations, except we are not transparent about them and people do not know what is expected of them.

Our conviction at our church is to no longer be that way.  We want to be non-denominational, not anti-denominational.  There is a big difference.  Anti-denominational people think that people in denominations cannot be right with God because they are in a denomination.  Non-denominational means that we choose to be locally led, but we don’t hate denominations.  Through non-denominational lenses we do not see the man-made lines we have created.  Non-denominational people do not get hung up with denominational names and view each person as an individual, right with God based upon their own faithfulness to Him and not on their church affiliation. Condemning people in other churches and dividing over the names we use to call ourselves is so contrary to Scripture.

Paul actually had to deal with this in the Corinthian church.

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided?   [1 Cor 1:10-13 (ESV)].
Let’s put it in modern words.
For it has been reported to me by people on Facebook that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Luther,” or “I follow Wesley,” or “I follow Calvin,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided?  [not 1 Cor 1:10-13 (ESV)].
I wish I was as faithful at following Jesus as Luther or as Wesley.  They were great Christians, faithful to the point of selflessness.  I understand why people thought they were on the right track on how to follow Jesus and desired to follow Jesus the way Luther or Wesley did.  And if we are honest with ourselves and study the history of the Restoration Movement, we follow Jesus in the same vein as Alexander Campbell followed Jesus, although we might not have ever read him, really don't even know about him, nor do we call ourselves Campbellites.  We should not be arrogant or look down on others who follow Jesus differently because they come from a different heritage; we come from a heritage that has taught us how to study Scriptures and follow Jesus the way we do.. 

Paul concluded his section on division in the early chapter in Corinthian by stating:
So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.  [1 Cor 3:21-23 (ESV)].
All are Christ’s.  Even those who follow him like Paul, Apollos, Cephas, Luther, Calvin, or Wesley – Christ is not divided.  We need to stop quarreling among ourselves and with our brothers and sisters in Christ in other churches because bickering destroys our witness to the world.,  We need to have the heart of Jesus and figure out how we can serve one another.  In order to do this, we need to clearly understand the essentials that we are willing to divide over.

More tomorrow.

For further reading:
A Discussion on Essentials (Part One)