In a recent meeting on strategic planning at the Division of Child Support something caught my ear. Our new 5-year strategic planning phase has begun and one of the facilitators started talking about the need for “diversity”—a term that bothers me. But, what stood out was her reason why. “our purpose is to develop a plan that will move our division with unity in direction, not uniformity of opinion.” Unity in Direction! Hopefully, I didn’t miss anything important that was said after that because for the rest of the meeting my mind was thinking about church.
An article in the current Christian Chronicle shared an early slogan from the Stone-Campbell Restoration movement, “We are Christians only, not the only Christians”. Sadly, what I have heard through most of my years is very much opposite of that. Too many churches of Christ now hold to the concept that we are ‘Christians only AND the only Christians’. A quick google search will turn up mutliple quotes from early “Church-of-Christers” (if I can use that term) who recognized that the greatest error of denominationalism was that of division. Some of the more notable names include F.D. Srygley, M.C Kurfees, F.G. Allen, N.B. Hardeman, D. Lipscomb, and J.A. Harding. Sadly, division within the church is alive and well today. We will never be unified as long as we think the standard for unity is agreement on every issue.
I believe with all my heart that the only cure for division and strife, the only hope that we can be ONE as Jesus prayed the night before He was crucified (John 17:20-21) is if we hold firmly to prayer, scripture and grace. Nothing less than these three will preserve unity. We must pray. Jesus demonstrated this vital need by retreating to connect to the Father on multiple occasions (Matthew 14:23, 26:36, Mark 1:35). Paul reminds us to “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and to “be faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12).We must study our Bibles. Paul reminds Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:15 to “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” And the Bereans in Acts 17:11 were praised because they “examined the Scriptures every day” to make sure the teachings they heard were Biblical. It may be good to note that what they were hearing contained things which were VERY different from they had always been taught. Finally, we must be gracious. I love to think I am right—but I am not always right. Even when I am certain, I’m right, and when I have no doubt, and when I would put my own life on the line—even then, sometimes I am wrong. Jesus reminds us “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2) We would all be wise to exercise more grace to those around us. After all, I am certain I will require a much greater measure of grace from Him who will judge me.