May 8, 2006

prospects for unity

From birth my religious thinking was shaped and nurtured (warped might be a better term) by a church believing they alone represented the true church on earth. Things were simple in those days; identifying the Lord's church was as uncomplicated as reading the sign over the entrance into the building, if it said CHURCH OF CHRIST it was THE church (although this wasn't always true, some churches that wore the proper name were lost,) any other name written on the sign revealed an apostate church where I had no brothers and sisters to fellowship.

One of the primary objectives of the Restoration Movement was to unite Christians; yet over the years those within the RM have splintered into dozens of separate groups where fellowship, even between churches with the same heritage, is almost nonexistent. What started out as being a noble endeavor to unite God's children has regressed to the point that we seldom, if ever, seek unity with other Christians. Many in the COC honestly believe there can be no unity unless those who disagree with us completely drop their cherished beliefs and fully adopt our viewpoint-we are always right, and your usually wrong!

The religious world is not blind to the failure of the RM to achieve unity, and by our actions it's easy to see that we desire unity only on our terms. In order to have Christian unity we must find a way to show other Christians we truly desire their fellowship without demanding anything of them that God doesn't require.

Since no one is perfect, even the Christian, there will be disagreements on every conceivable doctrine, and if we expect every church to fall in line with our particular beliefs we will always be disappointed. Believe it or not, many people in what many of us might call false churches, actually are honest in what they believe, even if their wrong. Many in the Church of Christ are also honestly wrong in what they believe (this may be a shock to some in the Church of Christ.)

Some questions to ponder:

1. What will those in the COC concede for the sake of unity, and what do we expect other groups we discuss unity with to concede?

2. How well can we accept change after years of believing we alone have the perfect pattern for the church?

3. Do we really expect other groups to throw away their beliefs and adopt our viewpoint?


Danny Kaye said...

Good "thinking" post, Larry.

I wouldn't find it shocking at all to learn that I was wrong about many things. But the scriptures are clear that I need to live out what I believe as I understand them in the Bible.

1.) You ask a good question about what I would be willing to give up for the sake of unity. I desire unity moe than anything else on earth...except love, of course. I would be willing to give up anything I currently believe if what I believe was proven to be wrong. Unity first...pride never. (Well, that's a goal anyway.)
I would anticipate that all those about whom you spoke who have sincerity and honesty would be willing to do the same if they were shown that what they believe was wrong.
It's a heart of humilty we're talking about here. Not necessarily a lost/saved state before our Father.

2.) I thrive on change. So change wouldn't bother me much at all. I can't even sit still for more than 10 minutes at a time. Bring on some change...and make it toward God.

3.) If I convinced someone that what he believed was wrong, then yes, I would expect him to adopt at least another viewpoint other than his current one. It doesn't have to be mine.

Good questions, though. Good for the heart, good for the mind, and good for the unity of others.

Happy wrestling, bro.

(An' when are you gonna allow folks without Blogger accounts to make comments, eh?)

Larry said...

Unfortunately those I met with many years ago have changed little over the years, and only the younger members seem to realize that some things they have understood as truth is completely wrong. I believe if there is to be change it will be in our younger brothers and sisters.

Change can be difficult, especially if all you have ever heard is the necessity of NOT changing. Change was difficult for me, so I understand how tough it is for those engulfed in legalism to see through the haze to a clearer vision.

It is very difficult to admit your mistakes when you have honestly believed something for decades then out of the blue !!!SPLASH!!! right in your face something, or somebody causes you to come to the realization that many things you believe in, and have taught others, is false...very tough indeed!

After receiving an x-rated comment a while back, and not catching it for a few days, I'm somewhat gun shy about allowing anonymous comments.

Danny said...

Unity in my mind can only happen when we first honor the "Greatest Commands"

Then we have to consider what Paul outlines in Ephesians 4- one faith, one Lord, one body, one hope, one baptism, one Spirit, one faith.

Then we have to have the desire to meet each other in the middle on our understanding of these seven ones.

Unity has to have a framework or it is no unity at all.

Larry said...

If it was as simple as agreeing with Paul's thoughts in Ephesians 4, I think unity would be right around the corner.

Is it reasonable to assume, based on our history of disunity, that we can't grasp the idea of unity unless the other party is willing to carry our traditional baggage and buy into our legalistic viewpoint?

There are many in the COC who seek unity and are willing to discuss our differences with other groups, but there are even a larger number that believe unity can only be achieved if the other group completely agrees with us in all the details, because we believe we have the perfect pattern for the Lord's church, and are not willing to concede anything...the old my-way-or-the-highway stubbornness.

Danny Kaye said...

"Is it reasonable to assume, based on our history of disunity, that we can't grasp the idea of unity unless the other party is willing to carry our traditional baggage and buy into our legalistic viewpoint?"

I think I see a little problem here. That is a blanket statement accusing all of the CoC members of being legalistic (including me). I agree that the pattern in the past was just that. (Not for everyone, I understand. But it was the pattern.) And I am convinced that there are still brothers and sisters who might still have that mindset.
But much of the legalistic mindset was given the proverbial "boot" when we saw the movement crumble because of disunity at the top. We saw that we, as a movement, were susceptible to the same things other groups were vulnerable. And that humbled many of our members.
This is the case for me and most disciples I know. Legalism is no longer the pattern. We are "allowed" to think for ourselves and come to our own convictions.

Don't misunderstand me. I still believe many of the core things I used to. Not because I am being legalistic, but because I am convinced that it is what the Bible teaches. I will not compromise what the Bible teaches for the sake of acceptance of others. That mindset is what gave birth to the Unitarian Universalist group.

I listen to other viewpoints with all sincerity. I love hearing other sides. I have some really great friends who are of other denominations. So far, they have not convinced me that I am wrong.
I am not legalistic anymore (or at least I try not to be, anyway.) But I still have convictions. And I believe God wants me to have them.

(Larry, this is not meant to be preachy or a sermon. I guess I just wanted to caution you about the blanket statement. I believe most of us have changed.)

L.E.Meredith said...

Rubel Shelly believes and teaches:
Here is what God wants churches passionate about:
(1) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
(2) that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
(But: The Israelites had to "look upon" the serpent) John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
(3) "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ" (Acts 2:36).
(But: Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Acts 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.)
(4) "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: (5) While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (6) Since we have now been justified by his blood, (7) how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!" (Rom. 5:8-9).
(But: Rom 6:3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Rom 6:4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.)
These are the essentials of Christian faith. It is this core message about Jesus that we share
in common with other
Bible-believing, cross-proclaiming, resurrection-confessing, born-again persons that constitutes us a church.

L.E.Meredith said...

oops I meant to leave this before but as you said nobody is perfect

Rubel Shelly

Larry said...

Danny Kaye...
Appreciate your input. No, you don't sound preachy, besides, I sometimes need some preachy stuff. :)

There are always exceptions when one makes a "blanket statement," and I realize that much has changed in the various COC groups over the years.

Those I talk to in other denominations still have the perception that we (all the Churches of Christ) remain as legalistic as ever. Perhaps over time this will change.

I agree; compromising our core beliefs for the sake of unity will never work. We also need to realize that those we seek unity with also have core beliefs they will not compromise.

Unity is tough! we will always have diversity whether were united or not; none of us see exactly alike, but I hope in time we can all agree that we are God's children even if we don't always see eye-to-eye.