Shun Division, Disunity, and Denominations in the Name of Jesus
Just as church member status divides the church body into two groups, so does our doctrine. Instead of obeying Jesus’s instruction to love God and love others, we make a lengthy list of what we should do and shouldn’t do, judging others according to our opinions of what’s proper and what’s not.
This legalistic approach follows what the Old Testament set in motion with its 613 instructions in the Law of Moses, of things to do and not do.
Compounding the problem, God’s children in the Old Testament added tens of thousands of manmade rules, which evolved over the centuries, to help interpret the original 613 expectations he gave to Moses.
Jesus Says to Love God and Love Others
Jesus says that his yoke is easy in his burden is light. This means his doctrine is simple to follow and effortless to bear (Matthew 11:30). To confirm this, Jesus simplifies all these Old Testament commands and man-made traditions when he says we are to love God and love others (Luke 10:27).
Yes, Jesus’s essential expectation is love.
To accomplish these two instructions to love God and love others, we can best do so through Jesus. We should follow him (Matthew 4:19 and Luke 14:27), believe in him (John 6:35), and be his disciple (John 8:31 and John 15:8).
These are all ways of saying we need to go all in for Jesus. That’s it.
That’s our essential doctrine. Everything else is secondary. Beyond Jesus and love, we shouldn’t argue about the rest. We are to be one church, just as Jesus prayed we would (John 17:20–21).
Yet in the last 500 years we’ve argued about doctrine, we’ve judged others by our religious perspectives, and we’ve killed people for their beliefs. We deemed that our view was right and everyone else was wrong. We used this to divide ourselves.
We formed groups of like-minded thinkers, which became denominations.
Today we have 42,000 Protestant denominations, dividing Jesus’s church so much that we’ve lost our witness to the world. Jesus wanted his followers to live in unity. Yet we persist in division. Our denominations that we made are the antithesis of God’s unity that Jesus wants (Ephesians 4:3–6).
Yes, division occurred in the prior 1,500 years—the first millennia and a half of Jesus’s church—but that was nothing like what’s happened in the last five centuries during the modern era.
Paul says that we are to unite ourselves under Jesus, to be like-minded, of one Spirit and one mind. In our relationships we should have Jesus’s mindset (Philippians 2:1–5).
To Titus, Paul writes to warn a divisive person one time, and give a second notice if they disregard the first. Then the only recourse is to ignore them (Titus 3:10–11).
Jude also warns against division. Instead of taking sides, he tells us to rise above it by focusing on growing our faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, and abiding in God’s love (Jude 1:18–23).
As followers of Jesus, we must pursue unity in him and oppose every instance of division—regardless of the source.
Read the next post in this series about things we must change in our discussion about making disciples.
Read more about this in Peter’s new book, Jesus’s Broken Church, available in e-book, audiobook, paperback, and hardcover.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.
Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.