Nancy Kennedy is a writer for our local Citrus County Chronicle. Every Saturday, she has a column in the religion section called Grace Notes.
I don’t know Nancy but I enjoy her columns. She seems sincere, devout and spiritually minded.
Last Saturday she addressed the topic of religious unity, inspired by her attendance at an ecumenical prayer breakfast where many denominations were represented.
“A common question people ask: If the Christian church is one body, why are there so many denominations?,” she wondered.
Nancy’s answer was honest. “I have no idea.”
Her google search revealed over 200 denominations in the U.S. Another search suggested there were about 33,000. In our county she discovered over 150 different denominations.
Looking to find something positive about different religious groups Nancy offered these observations about what she had learned from various churches.
Methodist churches are known by their motto: “Open hearts, open minds, open doors.”
Baptist churches are big on Sunday school from cradle to grave, also missions.
A Church of Christ church believes in a no-frills approach to Sunday service. Their sermons are pure Bible, serious expository preaching, which I respect.
Denominations birthed from the Protestant Reformation such as Lutheran, Presbyterian and Anglican, bring an emphasis and embrace of grace – grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
It’s at my Presbyterian church where I learned “Grace, grace, God’s grace … is greater than all my sin.”
Catholic and Orthodox churches bring history, tradition, ceremony and solemnity. I learned basic catechism as a child at a Catholic church: Who is God? Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die on the Cross?
Worship at Pentecostal churches is lively and exuberant. They experience God, and whenever I feel the need for powerful prayer, I go to one of my go-to Pentecostal preacher friends. They expect God to hear and answer prayer.
Reading Nancy’s column reminded me of a quip I once read by Vance Havner. “Whether or not you can have unity in diversity depends on how diverse the diversity is.”
While I applaud Nancy’s kind demeanor, gracious spirit and positive approach, true religious unity cannot really be achieved by merely looking at areas of common agreement. While that’s a good place to start, we must each ask some serious questions.
Am I willing to accept that Jesus has “all authority in heaven and on earth”? (Matt 28:18-20).
Do I believe that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” ? (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
Do I believe that the Scripture provides “all things that pertain to life and godliness”? (2 Pet.1:3)?
Do I believe the spiritual freedom from the bondage of sin comes only through understanding, believing and obeying the Truth? (Jn. 8:32; Eph. 3:3-5; Rom. 6:1-23).
The apostle Paul offered this challenge to the divided church at Corinth. “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10).
The unfortunate reality is there’s a lack of scriptural unity among the afore mentioned churches, because not everyone is speaking the same thing. Doctrines differ regard the means of salvation. About the nature and seriousness of sin. And about the work, worship and organization of the church.
Some churches today have gone so far as to disregard God’s arrangement of the home and are sanctioning same-sex marriage. (Matt. 19:3-9). Others are even ordaining homosexual ministers to lead their congregations. God’s prohibition of such relationships is clearly taught (Rom. 1:20-32; 1 Cor 6:9-11).
The Psalmist exclaimed, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps.133:1).
However the prophet offers this important and probing question. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3).
What we have today in religious circles is union, not unity. Like I once heard an older preacher illustrate, “You can tie two cats’ tails together and hang them over a clothes line. You may have union, but you do not have unity.”
The challenge of all of us professing Christianity is to return to a respect for and adherence to the Bible, the Word of God, as the authoritative standard for our faith and practice.
Only then can Jesus’ prayer for unity be a reality…”that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn. 17:21),
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman
2 responses to “Can We Have Unity in Diversity?”
I believe this is why Jesus said to Simon bar Jonah … get behind me! Unless Cephas was willing to accept the responsibility of his calling to be the ROCK and think like God instead of man and lift up the mission of the Cross and realize fishing at night was not going to bring in the great catch he needed in his life, he was not going to fulfill his calling to unite and build the kingdom of God! As Husbands need to get behind their wives and have faith in their calling and work together as an evenly matched team going in the same direction… one pushing, one pulling or both pulling side by side…so too should their children and the Church work to sustain their divine calling!
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