May We Be One in Jesus and Ignore What Could Separate Us
We live in a divisive time, with one group opposing another, often in the most zealous of ways, sometimes even with violent outcomes. As a society, we’re quick to put people in a box and label them according to some aspect of their life.
Though these labels are sometimes convenient, and at times even appropriate, more often they divide us and cause unnecessary conflict and needless opposition.
These divisions, however, don’t just appear in secular spaces. They also appear in the religious realm. We put labels on people of faith and use these identifiers to decide who we align with and who we oppose. And to our discredit, we do this in the name of God.
Here are some ways that we let labels divide us as people of faith and followers of Jesus:
Divided by Denomination
First, we divide ourselves by denomination, in both a generic and a specific sense. First, we segregate Christianity into three primary streams: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant.
Each group knows little about the other, often denigrating them over wrong assumptions and misunderstandings. Yet we all have Jesus in common. This should be enough to unite us and be one in him.
Within Protestantism, we see many more divisions with 42,000 Protestant denominations who distrust each other, criticize one another, and resort to name-calling for no good reason other than to make us feel smugly superior.
This is to our discredit. These manmade divisions take us far from the unity that Jesus prayed for and marginalize our witness for Jesus.
Divided by Theology
Next, we use the labels of our theology to separate us. We elevate our point of view—which we think is correct—and diminish our fellow brothers and sisters—who we perceive as being in error.
With academic vigor, we pursue a right theology. In the process, we overlook the importance of having a right relationship with God. Our connection with the Almighty, through Jesus, is what matters most.
Our theological labels don’t matter. In most cases, our theology wrongly judges one another and causes needless division. It generates suspicion and breeds mistrust. Instead of formulating tenuous theological constructs, we should focus on placing our trust in Jesus.
Divided by Politics
We also let our political views, which carry their own set of labels, influence our theology.
In the United States—and perhaps in the rest of the world too—we see well-meaning followers of Jesus who align with one political party, vilifying their brothers and sisters in Christ who belong to the opposite party.
I’ve heard each side lambaste the other, saying how can someone be a (enter party affiliation) and be a Christian?
Divided by Church Practice
Making an even a finer distinction on our theology, we place labels on our church practices, too, often with fervent passion. Some churches are known as being high churches, which implies the rest are low churches.
There are liturgical churches and non-liturgical churches. Some church gatherings place their focus on the practice of Holy Communion and others emphasizethe sermon.
Then there are musical styles, ranging from traditional to contemporary. We also debate pews versus chairs, women in ministry, and the “proper” way too be saved through Jesus.
Divided by Membership
Beyond that, we divide ourselves by membership status. For some churches—perhaps most—this is an essential consideration. Members are in, and nonmembers are out, be it effectively or legalistically.
But membership in a denomination or local church isn’t biblical. It opposes the Scriptural teaching that as followers of Jesus we are members united in one body, which is the universal church.
The Solution to Labels
It’s time we end our categorization of each other and stop our needless squabbles over secondary issues and disputes that don’t matter to God. Instead it’s time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do.
We need to live in unity.
Then we can come closer to being united as one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.
It’s time we embrace one another and love one another, just as Jesus told us to do.
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.