Can two walk together, except they be agreed? – Amos 3:3
Increasingly I hear this idea that we, as the body of Christ, are called to put aside our differences (mostly what we believe about God – who he is, how he works, what his will is, etc.) and just join in unity around our common faith that Jesus is God’s son. That, despite all the glaringly obvious doctrinal disagreements (big and small), we need to cautiously hold hands and work together as much possible. It’s a comforting, non-devise thought that every self-respecting, conflict-averse, Midwestern can get behind.
Begin caveat – I will admit there is a degree of wisdom in this sentiment, so let me be the first to admit that I believe even God himself is in the business of meeting people where they are and working with them until they grow up. Can anyone truly claim to have it all figured out except God? Of course not, yet he is still willing to cooperate with us as his hands and feet on this earth. I am not opposed to cooperation along common lines of interest. I think that the body of Christ should cooperate as much as possible – end caveat.
Where this sentiment is dangerous is that it provides justification for compromise. Compromise and truth have nothing in common. The truth, by it’s very nature, is exclusive. If a truth is only a truth that applies to you, it is not the truth. The truth applies to all and there cannot be many versions of it. It excludes all those, either through ignorance or choice, that do not believe it. Truth, by it’s very nature, is self-unified and cannot be compromised, or it is not the truth.
Jesus forever settles the definition of truth in John 17:17 when he said, “Sanctify them through thy truth (Father): Thy word is Truth.” Our doctrinal divisions in the church are not some kind of badge of pride we all get to wear as we join hands in the diversity of our different beliefs. I morn the fact that you can find a different flavor of “truth” on every corner all bearing God’s name. Rest assured He is not divided, nor is He happy with our division.
It is for this very reason that many of the New Testament epistles were written, to correct false doctrine, and to keep people from “leavening” the truth with divisive and compromised belief structures. Peter, Paul, John, and others, all stood guard in unity around the truth and sound doctrine, and if it came under threat, either through what was being taught or what the way a person was behaving, they would call it out and expose it. There is an outward “worship” we can display through involvement in a organization, while we live a life devoid of truth. This is hypocrisy. Those who truly do love Christ will worship Him by cherishing every word He spoke, by building their life around what He said. This is sincere worship. “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (John 6:46)
Today, I will reveal a formula for having a large church/organization/ministry/blah. Would you like to increase your attendance? how about more giving? are those fancy concerts and after-school programs not bringing in the community like it used to? Well I have a key to make your church explode to a whole new level….don’t preach on divisive subjects. That’s It! That’s all it takes! Let’s take a look at a short starter list of what to avoid/pacify in your sermons…
- Loving Our Enemies
I challenge you to take a look at some of the largest churches and see if they dare mention these subjects (let alone expound on them). And when they do mention it, it’s so glossed over and undefined that you could hardly offend a soul, but Jesus said “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
Now granted the bible is pretty clear on all these issues, but I find that churches get smaller the more frank they are. This is the choice we all have to make – do you follow popularity or God. If you follow God he plans on sanctifying you with His truth which is His Word. We are not called to compromise God’s Word, we are called to deliver it clearly and unashamedly. The problem is that the clearer you are, the less wiggle room people have that might otherwise come to your church, God forbid. Jesus showed love to all, but He never compromised the truth one inch. As stated, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” At one point in Jesus’s ministry he offended all that followed him except the twelve disciples. Listen to this fluffy, puffy, lovey-dovey discourse, as Jesus gingerly tries to woo everyone not to leave him…
66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.67 Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.69 And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.70 Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?
The church is ruled by a fear of offence, much like our current culture. We don’t want to exclude anyone, or correct, or offend, so we keep our mouth shut. We have churches full of people that are used to a filtered gospel and we won’t speak truth because they’ll leave. The fruit of this kind of teachings is a toxic church, filled with people that won’t suffer correction, that can’t handle any sort of accountability, but are only willing to come if they are coddled like crying children. Poor doctrine makes for sickly children of God. The scripture itself says to “desire the sincere milk of the Word that you may grow thereby.”
I rejoice in whatever level of cooperation I can have with the body of Christ at large, but if all we can agree on is that Jesus is God’s son – well then give the devil his due, he has split the church up well. If we are more concerned with numbers in our churches than the quality of truth in our hearts, we will never change the world. Jesus turned a nation upside down in 3.5 years. With 12 men he changed the world. Of all the multitudes of thousands and tens of thousands that followed Jesus, were taught by Jesus, healed by Jesus, fed by Jesus, freed by Jesus, only 120 waited on His word in the upper room. I refuse to sacrifice truth for power, or clout, fame or money, or fear of what others may say or do. 10,000 people who listen to your compromised voice is not power – believing God’s Word is power!
The time has come for the church to value favor with God above favor with men. You can’t have it both ways. Compromised humanistic beliefs have no power to save, or heal, or deliver. God’s word is our ally, His truth is my defense – and with it the Church can still be about Christ’s mission of saving, delivering and healing this world.
Whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple. Salt is good: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned?