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Posted: January 24, 2013 8:41 p.m.

Caldwell: Seeking unity

The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., once said, "It is appalling that the most segregated hour of Christian America is 11 o’clock on Sunday morning." Indeed his quote still holds true today. I would argue, however, that it is far worse. Not only are those who profess faith in Christ separated in most churches by the color of their skin, they are separated by much more. We are far quicker to tell you what denomination we are than to tell you of the Christ we follow.

Even the denominations have within themselves sub-denominations which differentiate themselves from others. Then there are the many "isms," Calvinism, Arminianism and Methodism just to name a prominent few. The separation over musical stylings, this one seems to be particularly divisive in our society. If a group of people don’t like what their church is doing, then they just split and go do things their way. Segregation is the way of the church. While all of this is happening a lost world is going to hell, our society is falling apart and our churches are slowly dying, and we (if we care at all) are wondering how this happened.

Obviously, this was not what Jesus had in mind when he prayed for his church in John 17:22,

"May they be one as we are one." It doesn’t take a theologian to see that we are a long way off from what Christ prayed. Somewhere along the way, we have lost sight of the truth. We, as a church, have taken our eyes of the goal. Instead of Christ being the head of his church (Ephesians 4:15), we have turned him into a figure — much like Bear Bryant is for Alabama football or Vince Lombardi for the Packers; something we hearken back to. The fact is that Christ is and forever will be the leader of his church; he will accept no other position. He is the foundation from which truth is built and his truth is absolute. We can have no unity where there is no truth. Charles Spurgeon said this in regards to church unity:

"To remain divided is sinful. Did not our Lord pray, that they may be one, even as we are one?" (John 17:22) A chorus of ecumenical voices keep harping the unity tune. What they are saying is, "Christians of all doctrinal shades and beliefs must come together in one visible organization, regardless... Unite, unite!" Such teaching is false, reckless and dangerous. Truth alone must determine our alignments. Truth comes before unity. Unity without truth is hazardous. Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 must be read in its full context. Look at verse 17:

"Sanctify them through thy truth; thy word is truth." Only those sanctified through the word can be one in Christ. To teach otherwise is to betray the Gospel."

Here are a few concrete facts: you and I really have no idea who is predestined. We don’t know what the end of the world is going to look like, whether we’ll be around for the tribulation or not. We do not totally understand free will and God’s sovereignty. Speaking in tongues isn’t the only evidence of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life. Jesus isn’t a Democrat or a Republican. I understand that for some, I have already crossed the line into blasphemy but I ask that you hear me out. I am simply saying we don’t know. Yet we stand on truths that are shaky at best, and are always debatable. And these are the types of things that keep us separate. There is a truth, however, that we can stand on and will not be shaken. The God who created the universe sent his Son to live a perfect life and die a horrible death so those who believe in him may live. There is our starting point and there is our foundation. I am reminded of what Paul wrote to the Corinthians,

"When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." Paul was a pretty smart guy, a lot smarter than me. Yet here he is only professing to know nothing but Christ. He could have made many arguments and dazzled them with his brilliance but he decided to stick with what counts — Jesus.

So how in the world do we get from where we are to where Christ desires us to be? First we must repent and that means all of us who profess faith in Christ. We must repent of the way we have abused the Bride of Christ. We must repent of only worshiping God when things are how we like them to be (i.e. music, preaching, people who look like us). We must repent of only being concerned with our own little kingdoms while neglecting his. We must repent of our own beliefs interfering with God’s truth. We must fall on our faces before God and ask for his forgiveness and mercy.

We must ask the Holy Spirit to lead us to truth. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. (John 16:13) Do we believe that if we earnestly seek God and his truth that he’ll answer? I do. I believe God can right this mess we’ve made and unite his church. If only we’d get past ourselves and allow God to sanctify us in his truth this community would see that our God is the only God.

Dream with me for a moment, what if every church was about fulfilling the Great Commission together? What if we decided that hunger and homelessness would no longer be an issue in our community? They are problems in our community by the way. What if we decide we would serve side by side fulfilling the commands of Christ not as a one day event or something headed by a committee but as brothers and sisters who serve the living God? What if we decided that getting God’s agenda done was more important than getting our own done? Well quite simply it would mean revival. It would mean people coming to a saving knowledge of Christ. It would mean Christ being glorified.

In war, the worst thing you can do is divide your numbers. It weakens the group as a whole and makes victory less likely. Brothers and sisters, we have weakened God’s church by being divided. We have been losing the battle in our culture for some time now. Just as God is unified with the Son and the Holy Spirit he calls us to be unified in the same way. So my question is this; what are we going to do about it? I believe that if Jesus prayed it God will answer it. Will you be a part of the answer?

Chad Caldwell is the lead pastor of Journey Church off the square and can be reached at chad@lifejourneytogether.org.

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