There are more than 30,000 different Christian denominations.
The differences in doctrine and practice are legion.
Mission and Vision,
Gifts of the Spirit,
and on it goes.
I would clearly be wrong to say that these differences are all meaningless. They aren’t. Many of them have very serious ramifications for how we ‘do life’ as church bodies and individuals. Some of these issues are very close to my heart and would definitely affect what churches I would feel most ‘at home’ in.
At the same time, I find the idea of 30,000 denominations somewhat tragic. Or maybe what I find tragic is how important our divisions are to us. How quickly we dismiss people who believe differently. How we refer so easily to the ‘true Christians’, who are, of course, those in our general group. We are so sure that we have the monopoly on truth… and if everyone would just agree with us, then all would be well in the world. Guilty. As. Charged. Particularly on that last one.
‘Church Unity’ seems impossible from this standpoint. Unless of course we truly believe that only those who already believe *exactly* like us are the ‘Real Christians’. I don’t think most of us are quite that narrow through.
Here is part of the problem: We often view ‘unity’ in terms of agreeing on doctrine. To the degree that we have agreement is to the degree that we are unified. In a world where the ‘issues’ to agree or disagree on seem to be multiplying, this is a real problem.
What if we took a different approach? You know that marriage analogy about the triangle- where Jesus is at the top corner and the husband and wife are at the two bottom corners?… and how as the husband and wife move closer to Jesus, they also move closer to each other? As they move towards Jesus they are more ‘one’… more unified?
Maybe that is how we should approach church unity. Instead of making it about our differences and doctrines, let’s make it about all moving closer to Jesus. He is, after all, the one Who our faith is in. He is the King. The Cornerstone. The Bridegroom. So what if we were a bit more broad and gracious in our acceptance of other believers? What if we were willing to assume that the Real Christians/Real Church are those who have committed to following Jesus as Lord and Savior without all the asterisks and exceptions and ‘as long as’s? What if we let God be the ultimate judge of people’s hearts instead of being so quick to hold people we don’t even know under such scrutiny?
I’m not saying ‘anything goes’ in how we live life. I’m not saying doctrine doesn’t matter. It really does matter. So lets keep talking about doctrine and morality and whatever else. Let’s just keep some perspective. Let’s aim most importantly to love Jesus and love each other in the Spirit of Jesus. Loving others (Christians AND Non-Christians!) is the key part of HOW we love and follow God… we can talk morals and doctrine till the cows come home, but if we don’t have love, we have nothing. Let’s remember that in Matthew 25, when Jesus separates the Sheep from the Goats, the key factor isn’t a check list of doctrines, but LOVE (particularly shown to the ‘least of these’ in this passage). (Matthew 15:1-17, 17:20-25, 25:31-46, and 1 Corinthians 13)
So maybe we can love each other better. Maybe we can worry a bit less about our perfect doctrine and be a bit more concerned about if we are showing love to our Christian brother or sister. What if that is how the Bride will become more unified, pure, and clean and ready for her Groom?