Jesus prayed this for believers:
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)
It is God’s will that believers live in unity.
According to Ephesians 4:13-15, we reach unity when we are mature, no longer infants tossed back and forth by the wind of teaching but instead speaking the truth in love.
Paul says in Romans 16:
I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. (Romans 16:17)
What is it that causes disunity and divisions according to Romans 16? Teaching that is contrary to God’s word.
We are not told to compromise truth and simply love these people in the church - but to “watch out” for them and “keep away from them”. That’s a hard truth right? I mean who are we to judge…and how is that loving and kind to “keep away” from certain people? Shouldn’t we be loving these people, welcoming them into our circle so we can help them see the truth?
Let me share my personal journey from before I was a blogger.
In college at the Moody Bible Institute, I became close friends with many women from different denominations. This is when I learned, that though we all had different experiences in our home churches – we were united around the gospel and most other non-gospel issues. There were debates across dining room tables but we always ended in unity of love.
Then I graduated from college…
In 1998, I had been married for about 10 months and was living in a new city while my husband finished up his college degree. I had friends but no Christian ones. I longed to have a Christian friend I could talk to about spiritual things. And then one day – she waltzed through the door.
Kima loved Jesus something fierce. She was bold in prayer – bold in sharing the gospel and full of joy. We connected immediately and became close friends.
But quickly I would learn that we had glaring denominational differences. Over our lunch break we would discuss our differences and even open the Bible together to discuss hard passages. Behind closed doors we disagreed but in the work place – we were united. We prayed for our unbelieving friends, shared the gospel together, wrote verses on post-it notes to encourage each other and I don’t think anyone in the workplace knew that we had any disagreements because together, we ministered in unity.
Could Kima and I have led a Bible Study together? Would I have promoted a book written by her? Would I have invited her to speak at my Women Living Well Conference.
The reality is once we turned one page past the gospels of the New Testament – and drifted into the Pauline Epistles – our paths separated in our beliefs. Leading together from a platform would have caused confusion.
And this is what I am experiencing currently in the female blogging world.
There is a lot of talk about uniting around the gospel despite some very real differences like roles of women in the home and church, definition of marriage or authority of scripture. Different denominations, self-proclaimed Reformed, Emergent, Charismatic and Catholics are all sharing platforms together at conferences, contributing to group blogs or promoting each other’s books.
I personally think this is very confusing.
Can we unite around common causes such as feeding the hungry, saving young girls from sex trafficking, caring for the orphans and pursuing clean water for those around the world. Yes.
Can we sing worship songs together in unity – yes.
Can we proclaim the gospel together- yep!
Can we sit around dinner tables together and enjoy friendships – a thousand times – yes.
But can we follow Jesus’ mandate to make disciples of all nations “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” together?
I’d say my generation believes that indeed we can and they are attempting it.
I will be very very very unpopular for saying what I am about to say. (I expect tomorrow for a bunch of bloggers to unfriend me – Lol!)
But I think if we lay down sound doctrine (if you are not sure what I am referring to as “sound doctrine” –read last Monday’s post) in favor of uniting around the gospel:
1.) We are intellectually dishonest. The minute we turn one page past the books in the Bible that are called “The Gospels” – there will be divisions. The minute this “united group” turns to Romans 1 and what God’s word says on homosexuality or Ephesians 5 and the roles of men and women in marriage or the book of Titus on eldership and leadership in the church – the unity will be broken. Why? Because of unsound doctrine in the midst.
2.) Any Bible teaching ministry that unites around the gospel but not around sound doctrine – will be an inch deep and a mile wide. It will be shallow. This “Bible” ministry will not be able to move into the Pauline Epistles without confusion and divisions. Someone is teaching false doctrine and that will be uprooted when they move on to the meat of the word. So they will have to avoid meat and stick to the milk –so as to not offend each other.
I am in the minority when I say that I have grown extremely uncomfortable with all the uniting and no one being willing to divide over truth – something that (read my last post) we are called to do! Oh lukewarm church – when will we stop fearing man and start fearing God.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Friends, we must be wise- we must know God’s word. We must be discerning. We must compare every blogger, author and speaker’s words line by line to scripture. Scripture is our authority! God is our authority! And scripture speaks emphatically about sound doctrine (again read last Monday’s post for these scripture references.)
But let me close with this thought. When we say we are uniting around the gospel and then attempt to preach the word (not just the gospel – but principles for living out the gospel in our lives) and tip toe around certain passages, we compromise.
We must unite around the gospel for evangelistic purposes. But if the church wants to move on to maturity through the meat of God’s word the options are…
Turn a blind eye to false doctrine or take a stand for truth.
Allow confusion to seep into the church or teach with clarity the words of scripture.
I beg my generation to stop. We do not need to neglect God’s word to be relevant. God does not need our help by concealing truth so people are not offended. Know scripture. Have courage. Stand on truth. The truth will set us free! Free from false doctrine and sin.
Do not fear man. Fear God Alone!
Do not fear dividing. Because just as Jesus himself prayed that we would be united – he also said these very hard words below about dividing…
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
“Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.For I have come to turn“ ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.“ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”
My relationship with Kima was a blessing. We loved each other so much that we were honest with each other. Neither of us shied away from speaking what we believed as we attempted to find unity behind closed doors. We never did reach it. But we loved each other anyways…and a few years later Kima died of brain cancer and I am certain she is with Jesus today.
Sisters in Christ, let’s unite around the gospel. Let’s unite on everything we possibly can. But let’s also study up, speak up and build up the body of Christ with truth. Fear God Alone.
Walk with the King,
The other posts in this series:
Speaking the Truth In Love
The Authority of Scripture and 5 Ways to Defend Truth
The Ultimate Cultural Sin –Intolerance
How to Respond to the Labels – Intolerant, Judgmental, and Hater
What is Sound Doctrine?
Should Christians Simply Unite Around the Gospel?
Can a Woman Be an Elder or Pastor?
Should a Wife Submit To Her Husband?
Can Good Works Save You?
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing