This year was the 1st ever time I attended the Global Day of Prayer. It was good to see the body of Christ in Singapore from all different denominations gathered together and singing worship songs in one accord. The modern church of our time is incredibly divided. Hence, unity of the Body of Christ is something I do treasure a lot. Going to the Global Day of Prayer allowed me a glimpse of what could happen when the church is united as a whole.
Paul exhorts the church in 1 Cor 1: 10 against disunity of the church: Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment.
Indeed, divisions of many sorts have plagued the church of God. Be it doctrinal divisions or practical divisions, the universal church of God ought to be united as one, as the Body of Christ.
Coming from a background of a spectrum of different churches, the root problem that I think is the cause of disunity is what verse 10 describes – the lack of a common agreement.
Why is this so? What cannot the church agree on that divisions have to exist?
It’s simple, yet it is happening. Traditions.
The disgusting thing is that most churches chose to keep their own man-made traditions at the expense of the unity of the body of Christ. Each denomination has a way of doing church or way of worshipping God, and strangely, the disagreement on how a church should physically function has led to the emergence of so many denominations today.
In 1 Cor 1: 12, it is “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Cephas”. Isn’t it the same today? Today, we have “I am Methodist” or “I am Baptist” or “I am Presbyterian”. Such a shame!
Who is there to say “I am of Christ”?
Let me illustrate this with a conflict that I have been through personally. I grew up in my 1st ever church singing hymns and so I grew up with the impression that worship songs = hymns. And yes, a few fundamental churches I been to later enforced the impression that contemporary worship songs are bad and evil (of course with some laying out of an argument or so). Immediately, a division line was drawn which states – hymn-singing churches=of God and contemporary worship songs singing churches=not of God. I belong to the hymn-singing church, therefore, I am of God. But all those other churches are tsk-tsk, not of God.
This thought stayed in my head for a pretty long time, until God changed the way I look at things. And this time, I shall say, biblically. It wasn’t anyone who convinced me, but the bible (I would use another post to explain how I came to my conclusion).
The point I would like to make is that, something so small like this can actually be a basis for separating the church, let alone doctrinal division and other stuff. Some churches may do it on terms of biblical separation, on the basis of separating themselves from the “church which has went wrong”. Yes, there is legitimate room for biblical separation. But frankly, most churches who does it do so out of a “Holier than thou” attitude that Paul warns of. When we go back to the bible and see what the Lord says, very often, the division is not really justified.
1 Cor 9:19-23 teaches us a very important principle of the Christian life – the principle of (biblical) accommodation.
Paul says, “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, so that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some.“
Verse 22 has become one of my favourite verses of the bible recently.
It has taught me how as a christian I should learn to accommodate others in order to win the lost. By this, I don’t mean accommodating sinful acts. What I mean is to accommodate any other thing possible that is not sin i.e the other person’s culture.
It’s like when I speak to my cousin, who can’t speak good english. In order to communicate with him, I have to speak broken english for the sake of accommodating him. I don’t force him to speak good english. I go down to his comfort level, so that I may relate with him.
If the bible wants us to accommodate a non-believer in order to win him or her, how much more should fellow believers accommodate one another!
If churches can see this truth that not everything should be done “OUR” way, but leave room for other legitimate practices, perhaps factionalism wouldn’t occur. Simply put it, the “we must do things in this manner that I want” attitude is nothing more than pride.
Romans 12:15 says, ‘Be of the same mind toward one another, do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation’.
Believers who think they are holier than others, this message is for us. Let’s associate with the lowly, not disconnect or cut off ourselves from them, and create another “holier” church. Let’s learn how to accommodate, to always take care of those who are weaker in the faith, to accept mistakes and forgive willingly. In doing so, we preserve the unity of the church.
This is Christianity. This is how we should live as the body of Christ.