There is little doubt in my mind that the divisions that we have created within the Body of Christ are the greatest wrong that we have done. Jesus prayed, "That they all may be one..." (John 17:21). How important is it to our Lord and Master that we all be one? Perhaps this is best answered with the thought that the Lord prayed for our oneness at a time when He was facing His own suffering and death; the death that was essential because we needed Him and this was the only way that Jesus could make us one with the Father. Paul said it this way:
"Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...." (Phil. 2:4-5).
Anyone who thinks for one moment that it is the denominational world that has divided the Body of Christ is simply looking for someone else to blame. We, the members of the Body of Christ, are to blame for the division that is destroying the body.
Our Lord said: "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand..." (Matthew 12 25). If you are not a part of the house, city or the Kingdom, how then can you divide it? The denominational religious bodies are of the world. They have no lot nor part in the Body of Christ. The Kingdom of Christ is being brought to desolation because of the things we Christians do within the Body, not the divisions from without.
Only baptized believers in Christ are a part of His Body. (Acts 2:47) says: "....and the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved."
There is only one way that I know to overcome this division. We must all strive to have the same mind as Jesus. "A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you..." (John 13:34). The key in this verse is the Lord's example of the giving of self. He gave His life completely. He gave all for you and for me. He asks, No! He commands that we be willing to do likewise for one another. What we do to and for each other, we do to and for Him.
Paul prayed that we would be able to comprehend this kind of love. This is a love that surpasses all knowledge (Eph. 3:19). Will God "shed" in our hearts the things that we do not want and will not accept? I think not! The Jews did not want this man Jesus as their saviour. Did the Father make them accept Christ? No. He allowed them to do what they chose to do. They chose to crucify the Son of God.
The natural man cannot comprehend this deep love, but the spiritual man, if he chooses to, can. It will require a great deal of study, fervent prayer, self examination, and hard work. We can and we must do it. Paul's first letter to the church at Corinth could easily be written to us today. The Corinthians were divided and Paul pleads with them, in the name of Christ, to stop. He makes it very clear that this behavior is worldly and not spiritual. He continues on to tell them (and us) how the church should be able to judge spiritual things. All along, he is making the point that they are puffed up. He then goes on to tell them that they are using the true knowledge of their liberty in God in the wrong way. Some would not give up their liberty to eat meat and thus they were wounding others whose consciences were weak. Paul did not command them to give up this liberty but by his example, he put many to shame. Paul declared that he would never again eat meat if by his eating it, he caused a brother, for whom Christ died, to fall away from the Lord. He pointed out that he was striving for an incorruptible crown and therefore would keep his body in subjection to the gospel of Christ. Paul taught by example as well as speech, that we need to put away self for the profit of many, that we all might be saved. Paul taught that no man should seek his own, but every man the other's wealth.
Is this the love that surpasses knowledge? Is this the kind of love we must have if we are to enter heaven? Paul said that if he had all knowledge but did not have love, he was nothing. If a person gives his body to be burned but has no love, it will make no difference. Love suffereth long, is kind, is not easily provoked. Love will never fail. Do you recognize the love of the Father? Do you see Jesus? The Father said: "Be ye holy as I am holy."
If it helps bring about the unity that my Lord prayed for, I will love my brother and respect his conscience enough to use one cup at the Lord's table. My wife would gladly wear a head covering. I do not need a piano and I can find other ways to do the works that I believe I must do and leave the collection money to be used for the needy saints and the laborers. I can survive without classes at the assembly and still grow in the Lord. If I did all these things for unity and the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ, where would I be compromising the truth?
The only thing I ask is that you do not require that I believe everything you do as doctrine or that I bind these doctrines on others before I can be judged worthy. I promise that I will do the same for you. Paul did not teach that you must believe that eating meat was a sin. He taught elsewhere that eating meat was allowed by God. He also did not teach that refusing to eat meat was a sin. What he said was that he would give up eating meat for the sake of his brother. I will try not to judge you in any matter of conscience or faith. I will try to judge as I would like to be judged - with mercy. Read the warning of the Lord in Matthew 7:2.
I can give up all of my liberties and never offend my conscience, because I also know that I have individual works to do in order to be pleasing to God. Perhaps, if we spent the time that God has given us doing these things instead of bickering and fighting among ourselves, the world would recognize us as His disciples after all.
If I keep striving to accomplish these things, then perhaps I will find that I am still in the race. I must keep looking to Jesus, the beginner and finisher of my faith, who for the joy that was set forth before Him, endured the cross and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ prayed that we love one another. Will He accept any less?