Unity in the Church
Posted in Wisdom
Scripture: “I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” – Ephesians 4:1-6
In 1975, I was called as the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Rock Hill, South Carolina. I was 27 years old at the time, and I was green with inexperience. Approximately 900 members left the denomination, and I was called to be the Shepherd of 140 faithful members who remained in the PCUSA.
Unbeknownst to me, when I arrived on the scene, was the stark reality that a lawsuit had been filed to determine who was the true Church– the loyal minority or the majority. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the S.C. State Supreme Court that the loyal minority was the “True Church.”
It is embarrassing when people of faith turn to civil courts to solve their faith for them. However, one experiences even more embarrassment at the deep pain of families within the church experience. Not only is their church divided, but also so are their families. I had husbands in one church and wives in another. Children in one church, parents in another. There is no greater pain than to see brothers and sisters living in disunity. They can no longer worship together because pride owns them.
Believe me, you never want to find yourself in this kind of destructive situation where the Body of Christ is broken and bleeding. Withdrawal is not the answer! Division leads to more division.
I close with this parable that I heard Carl Dudley tell almost 30 years ago. The Apache nation gathered at the foot of the Holy Mountain when the sun, moon, and stars were in a certain alignment. The gathering was to celebrate young braves becoming warriors. To become a warrior, one had to travel into the unknown and return, before night, with a gift for the Nation. With great joy, the Nation sent their young men off on their mission. And then waited for their return. As the shadows of evening lengthened, the first brave returned with a deer around his shoulders, a deer he killed with his own hands. And everyone marveled. Then came another brave carrying an herb for the healing of the Nation. And everyone marveled. The people gasped as the next brave entered the camp, carrying a rare bush that was between “life and no life.” And everyone marveled that someone could travel so far in one day. As dusk became darkness, the final brave entered the camp, shouting, “I have seen it: I have seen it –the shimmering of the sea.” The old chief stood, while raising his hands above his head, and asked the Nation this question: “Which can we live without? Food? Healing? Human accomplishment? Or Vision?”
I submit to you that our Church and our world can live without food, healing, and human accomplishment. However, one thing we cannot live without is vision. Vision of the one who turns water into wine; vision of him who gives us living water; vision of him who tells us to pick up our mat and walk; vision of the one who forgives our sin; vision of the one who says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life;” vision of the one who washes our feet and tells us to embrace servanthood; vision of the one who gives us eternal life through our faith in him. Vision of the one who dies in our stead, forgiving our sins; vision of the resurrected Lord standing in the Garden, calling our name. Vision of the one who prays in the Upper Room and in all places and at all times: “Father I pray that they may be one, just as you and I are one.”
Prayer: Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy: To the only wise God our Savior, be glory and majesty, dominion and power both now and forever. Amen.
Submitted by Judy Holmes