Presbyterian: You go to church on Sunday. Once.
Episcopal: Wherever you find four Episcopalians, you're bound to find a fifth. And the Book of Common Prayer rocks (just not the NEW one).
When I attended both Presbyterian and Methodist churches: You can believe in sovereignty and free will at the same time.
Baptist: Color-blind guys can do AMAZING chalk drawings and lead one to Christ.
Assembly of God: You may be God's Man of Faith and Power on Sunday night, but you're still an unemployed loser come Monday morning.
Churches of Christ: We speak where the Bible speaks, but where the Bible is silent, we mumble.
(fill in town) Christian Center: Children distract from the grup's praise & worship. We'll put 'em in a nursery and let 'em watch videos.
Different groups, different stuff. HOWEVER, there is one overarching Truth in all these groups, however imperfectly communicated or implemented:
Jesus is the Son of God, and He is Lord. The truth will out, if you just look for it.
There are a few things that this brings to mind:
I am 51 years old. I've been a churchgoer since being a toddler, a committed disciple since I was 12.
39 years following Christ.That's as old as Jack Benny. One thing that I have struggled to do is to follow the Word. I tend to stay away from books about the Latest Truth-Fad (Pray the Prayer of Jabez, and push God's buttons for fun and profit! ). C.S.Lewis referred to the problem of "Christ-and". Jesus' teaching isn't enough; you need summat else as well.
The something else generally revolves around Preference and Opinion. "I know, but..."
- I know that Jesus said that He was "the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.(John 14:6), but that's just not fair to the Norse Pagans.
- I know that Jesus said to be baptised, but isn't just praying a prayer a lot simpler, and less messy?
- I know the Word teaches to meet on the first day of the week for communion, but I think it would have more meaning if we did it once a quarter.
- I know that Jesus prayed that we be one, as He and the Father are one, but I think it's neat that there are so many different and contradictory groups, so we can all find a place where we are comfy.
Jesus also said: "Truly I say to you, Whoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter into it." (Mar 10:15) Little children tend to be trusting, accepting, and as a rule, obedient. They do not suffer from nuance, or sophistication.
Got my daughter in a jam. When she was wee, her mom and I told her to clean up her room, and put her toys away. We came back later to find...nothing done. I waxed wroth, and asked why she had not put her toys away? "But Daddy, where is 'away'?"
We assumed a programming element that was not there. She did not argue, but neither could she accomplish the task.
Jesus tells us what is required of us, desired of us. He makes it plain. When issues arose in the New Testament church, the Spirit of God led Peter, Paul, James, John, and others to give instruction so as to fix the situation. (Mental meander: it seems to me that all the talk of the Gospels' "religion OF Jesus" versus Paul's "religion ABOUT Jesus" comes from those with no real desire to bow the knee, and so adopt a pose of theological sophistication to obviate the need for it. This from a college religion major. HAH! I found a more useless major than English Lit or Womyns' Studies!)
The key, though, is to submit to the Word. " It is the Spirit that makes alive, the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63)
Joh 12:48 He who rejects Me and does not receive My Words has one who judges him; the Word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.
Joh 14:24 He who does not love Me does not keep My Words, and the Word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me.
What's the point? If we strive to follow the Gospel teachings, the words of Jesus, and the instruction of His apostles, divisions will decrease dramatically. If we delete "Yes...but..." from our thinking, we will have less strife. If I truly behave as though Jesus is my Lord (and as Roger Bush says "You spell Lord 'B-O-S-S'."), and that I am not smarter than the Son of God, or more clever than His apostles, then I will come far closer to being conformed to His character than if I insist upon my own way, my own opinions, and my own blather.
There are two verses that give me hope and comfort. Here is one::
(KJV+)Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
(CEV) Welcome all the Lord's followers, even those whose faith is weak. Don't criticize them for having beliefs that are different from yours.
(Aardvark's Paraphrase): Invite someone with a different opinion to the Bible study, but not so you can "fix" him.
The other is:
Php 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be thus minded: and if in anything ye are otherwise minded, this also shall God reveal unto you: (MKJV)
Php 3:15 All of us who are mature should think in this same way. And if any of you think differently, God will make it clear to you. (CEV)
Read Phil 3 for the context.
Jesus was about unity, NOT uniformity
Likewise Paul, and the other writers.
Hear what Paul saith:
Eph 4:1 Then I, the prisoner in the Lord, exhort you to walk worthily of the calling in which you were called,
Eph 4:2 with all humility and meekness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love,
Eph 4:3 being eager to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Eph 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling;
Eph 4:5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
Eph 4:6 one God and Father of all, the One above all and through all and in you all.
Eph 4:7 But to each one of us was given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
Here is the baseline for unity in the Body of Christ.
A side note: The heretic or "factious man" is not necessarily one who teaches false doctrine. He is one who insists "my way or the highway" (factious - Adjective - inclined to quarrel and cause divisions.).
Jesus prayed that we (the church) would be one (in unity), even as He and His Father are one. (If modalism is correct, then the church is just one person as well. The Bible language is not gooey here. The equation must balance. Plurality in unity on one side = plurality in unity on the other.) We are to be obedient to His Word as little children: trusting in God's loving desire for the best for His kids. If Jesus says to do something, we do it. If He says NOT to do something, we don't do it. If He says nothing about a thing, then we do not argue about it and make it a test of fellowship.
When Paul dealt with the problem of Christians knowingly eating meat sacrificed to idols, he was dealing with an issue of love. If my eating prime rib offered to Chthulu causes you, a younger or weaker brother to think that worship of The Elder Gods is a pretty neat and tasty proposition, then I am to go for the salad bar instead. It is not loving my brothers and sisters to insist on MY way if it causes them to stumble.
1st Corinthians 13 is not a pretty assemblage of words to be read at weddings (as if anyone is going to pattern their marriage by that anyway. Pass the pre-nup .) It is instead to be the way we live our lives in toto : relationships, work, family, church. You know...Life.
So here we have the main ways toward church unity.
For my next trick, I shall plug the black hole at the center of our galaxy.