One Body, One Church

Paul wrote of the one body, the one church of Jesus Christ.[1] He wrote that Jew and Gentile, male and female, slave and free are all one in Christ Jesus.[2] But the church today is splintered and divided, certainly not one body, the one church of Jesus Christ. Certainly Paul, as a Roman citizen, a Jew, a convener and sustainer of Christians around the Mediterranean Sea, a man who traveled most of the Roman Empire promoting this new religion — he saw most clearly what the church needed to become.

Just as he envisioned the one church of Christ Jesus, he also saw each member had spiritual gifts that would contribute to the whole church—gifts of evangelism or speaking in tongues or prophecy to name a few. Each person’s gifts were deemed necessary “for the common good.”[3]

How do we move toward what Paul envisioned? How would we begin to honor each person’s gifts, each church’s contribution to the whole? I think we start with this: that the Lord loves diversity. In the universe God has created enormous diversity within the plant and animal kingdoms. For example, there are estimated to be 280,000 species of plants on Earth and approximately 7.77 million species of animals.[4] Not only is there such diversity, but all these plants and animals are connected in an incredibly designed, interwoven and interdependent system of life in which all are dependent on each other for their life.

My point in providing these estimates is that we live on an incredibly diverse planet, created by God who seemingly loves diversity. So I would ask you, my reader, what do you think God would make of the diversity within the church, the fact that all the differences of opinion about the Bible all come from reading the same text? Some estimates place the number of Christian denominations in the tens of thousands.[5] Would God delight in the variety?

It seems to me that God would be pleased at the many shades of opinion, enjoy how much the variety plays into his scheme of creation, maybe take exception to some views that are self-serving rather than God-serving, but ultimately allow us our own reading of the Text until we build up a body of experience of the presence of God in our lives, until we are converted to his way of thinking and viewing our human tendencies through the lens of our own deep relationship with God.

Tuesday

I think that we have to stop judging with our dualistic minds what is happening to the church in Europe YIKES! or the decline of the influence of the church in America. OH NO! or how we can’t agree on Christian beliefs. HELP!! PANIC!! Or the vibrancy of the Asian and African churches. HOW CAN THEY TAKE OUR PLACE! If we step back a few paces from the way our minds usually work and take a more non-dual, embracing approach, a way that includes all that is real and true instead of judging it black and white, good and evil, then we are seeing more from God’s perspective than from a human one.[6]

We might see the ebb and flow of attendance, the reaction to the hypocrisy of the church, the various scandals as part of the inconstancy of us human beings[we are much like the ancient Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years trying(and often failing) to be true to God] and the natural progression of a religion that has trouble keeping up with the changes in humanity and how people in the 21st century view the church, the Christian religion, God and Christ and the Holy Spirit.

Wednesday

What each of us needs to focus on is our own commitment to a deep relationship with God and how that plays out in each of our lives in the actions we take, the words we speak, in how we treat each other. We are called to love! Period. To love God with all of ourselves and to love our neighbor as ourselves, as Jesus Two Great Commandments put it. [7]

The neighbor that we are to love includes other churches with different interpretations of the Gospels. If we were only to look at how dedicated the people in this church or that one are dedicated to Christ and forget all the differences between us, we are then focusing on what matters.

If we just cling to the Two Great Commandments of Jesus, if we are listening to all the murmurings of the Indwelling Spirit and following what the Spirit suggests, that’s all we need worry about. All else is just fluff, probably unnecessary, definitely of the world, not of the kingdom, and doesn’t matter a bit.

thursday

This is our call, to love, to be the one body, the one church of Jesus Christ. How are you doing with that call? How is your church doing with it? Do you honor other denominations? Do you seek to work with them on common cause? Or are you suspicious of them, judging them? Dismissing them as not as perfect or not having the right theology as you or your church? How do you think God would view the squabbles?

There are a few things that we have to stop doing if we are to be the body of Christ: 1)gossip is one of the most destructive indulgences of human behavior and its twin 2) judgment which always puts us better that the one judged. And we must adopt these: 1)we need to embrace every believer in the One God, in Christ and the Holy Spirit and 2)we need to love everyone to the extent that we like them, too. To love and to like someone takes time to get to know the other, to understand life from his/her point of view, to have patience with, to take joy in, to be kind and gentle and good to, to be faithful to, to be at peace with, and to exercise self-control. I’m sure you recognize the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. If we can love, the sum total of that fruit, if we can love everyone, we will then be the one body, the one church of Jesus Christ.

Questions to ponder over the week: Where do I stand with the variety of beliefs in the Christian Church? Do I judge others as not having the right beliefs? Do I think that only my church has the right ones? Or do I embrace the differences of opinion or at least seek to understand another Christian’s views?

Blessing for the week: May we be the body of Christ honoring all the different views as distinct parts of the body of Christ. May we honor the spiritual gifts of every member of the body. May we embrace all who honor and worship the Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit

If you’d like to see more of By the Waters, check these out:
–There’s a new video up on YouTube: “Trust in God” ”youtube.com/user/patsadams
–Check out my twitter feed at twitter.com/BTWwithPatAdams
–Check out the “Offerings” on my website, bythewaters.net, which links to a CD of guided meditations and a series of booklets on the Life of the Spirit.

[1] Ephesians 4:4, 1 Corinthians 12:12, Romans 12:5

[2] Galatians 3:28

[3] 1 Corinthians 12:7

[4] http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110823180459.htm 5.26.15

[5] https://theway21stcentury.wordpress.com/2012/11/23/how-many-christian-denominations-worldwide/ 6.13.15

[6] If you’re interested in non-dualism and Christianity, here are some books that explore this topic: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/carlmccolman/2012/12/seven-books-on-christianity-and-nondualism/   6.13.15

[7] Matthew 22:37-40

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