There is a song known in many Christian circles that says in part, “We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord … and we pray that all unity will one day be restored. And they’ll know we are Christians by our love … Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
Did you know there are over 40,000 Christian denominations around the world? And yet, when Jesus established his church there wasn’t even one denomination. It was one church, one body.
The word we use for “church” is “ecclesia,” which means “called” or “body of people.”
When Jesus told Peter that he would be the foundation on which Christ’s church — his “ecclesia” — would be built, I am quite sure Jesus intended for there to be one body, just as there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all.”
So, why over 40,000 different denominations?
Over the past 2 millennia, men and women have argued over scriptural interpretations and theological understandings. When an impasse was reached, the tendency has been to say, “I’m correct, you are wrong.”
The result? People were either kicked out, or they broke off from the other side and started their own group of like-minded people.
Eventually, dissension would arise within that group, and another split would ensue. The dominoes then kept falling.
It doesn’t seem that Christians are known by their love. Instead, a great many are known for their sniping, bickering, splits, being judgmental, and their inability to get along with those of differing thoughts.
I’m sure the Evil One — aka Devil —is in his glory. He knows the truth behind the phrase “divide and conquer.” What better way to destroy the Body of Christ than by getting us to argue with and condemn other Christians?
I wonder if Christ’s church will ever agree to disagree without condemning others of differing thoughts.
I wonder if Christ’s church will ever be able to live in unity in spite of our diversity.
I wonder if we will ever truly realize that what binds us together is not our compatibility but our commonality: we are all sinners in need of God’s grace.
United we stand, untied we fall.
The Rev. Mark Broadhead is pastor at Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and First Presbyterian Church of Crestview.