Unity in Christ is what Jesus asked the Father for us. What are we willing to do to make it happen?
16:2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD.
I heard it said, “What unites us ultimately divides us.” I take this statement to mean that whatever we hold near and dear to our hearts will be for what we fight and die. It also means to me that we need to be really careful about that which we unite, especially concerning Jesus Christ. Jesus prayed for unity (John 17:23); we need to determine what is absolute truth and what is interpretation. Preferences don’t count, and even convictions can be erroneous; they can be like drawing lines in the sand. The following picture gives us an idea of how to categorize our beliefs:
Let’s take them from the bullseye out.
- Jesus- The Person, Jesus Christ, is our foundation. A personal, ongoing relationship with Him is not only necessary, it’s vital.
- Dogma- The facts: Jesus left heaven to come to earth to reveal the Father to us; He lived, died on a cross, and rose from the dead three days later; He appeared to many, and then ascended back to His rightful throne with the Father; He promised that He would return one day, for which we patiently wait (for example, the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds).
- Doctrine- What we believe the Bible says about anything else: Heaven, hell, grace, works, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper are starters. Even our views on the Trinity are our efforts to describe that which is beyond words and human perception. Important, yes; vital, no. Paul said, “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained” (Philippians 3:15-16).
- Opinion- Our personal feelings, ideas, and concepts concerning all things biblical. Opinion goes beyond the text, which is what puts it in the last circle.
We tend to run with people who think like we do, which is not bad as long as we don’t hold ourselves aloof from other Christian brothers and sisters based upon anything except Jesus and Him crucified (Jesus Christ and Dogma; see 1 Corinthians 2:2). The big questions, those on which we all can unite, are,
“Do they believe that Jesus is Lord?
Do they love Him?
Do they follow Him?”
Abba, reading and listening to people who are Your followers and yet hold different views on doctrine has taught me that I don’t have everything “sewn up theologically”-in fact, can’t. There is so much of church history, what has been believed by church leaders in the past, and on what my own denomination’s beliefs are based that I never knew. In some ways, I feel like I’m beginning my education over–at 61! Rather than be frustrated, I choose to be excited about learning more about You, Lord, and those who have followed You. It’s something like reading a continued version of Hebrews 11, the hall of faith. Grow us, Lord, and make us one in You. It’s important; otherwise, You wouldn’t have prayed for it. Amen.