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SeperationExploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

Is it really such a problem that we are so divided over differences of opinion? Well, yes and no! Let me explain. When a group shows a lack of consideration or any hint of inflexibility to the idea of members holding differing views then there is a problem. Whether it’s a study on the Amish, or any denomination, church or a sweet little home group, where there is inflexibility, there are problems, all be they hidden.

Defaulting to Control and Conformity

Strangely, we gravitate to control and conformity of thought, finding security in it, rather than recognizing the threat that environments with enforced views have on liberty and healthy grow. And, in this bubble-like environment, we become threatened by those who bring different views. Yet, it’s a God given liberty to individually discover and hold different views as long as it’s in an honest pursuit of Biblical truth in relationship with God. Denying a person that is wrong! True growth and genuine unity is based on love, not enforced ideas.

Developing Unity: Embracing Messy People

While we should affirm that the Bible is the only sure expression on which to base doctrine, we should nevertheless allow for messiness in interpretation to be a part of normal growth. And, rather than shun, or try and control those with various views, we should expect this to be a normal process of the development in peoples’ understanding. Paul seems content to allow for differences in thought as a part of growth when he writes, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (Php. 3:14-16).

The potential disunity created by various views can be overcome if we give room for each to hold onto his or her convictions. For example, the practice of the Christening of infants with confirmation and the practice of believer’s baptism need not be divisive. Must we really go to separate buildings and worship apart from one another because we differ on issues like this? Let each do according to how they best understand God’s word and let God who fellowships with us all be blessed by seeing us lovingly fellowship despite our various opinions.

The Sin of Preeminence

Fervent opposition to the culture of guru following and any form of hierarchy and control is essential to avoid being led by some whacko (brother) or narcissistic leadership. And, I propose that it is easier to have unity with diversity under one roof if a decentralized, non-hierarchical, organic model is followed, where the Bible is the foundation for truth, and where room is given for individuals to have and share varied opinions and persuasions in the light of God’s word.

If we fellowship based on commonality of thinking then we will always be divided and will continue to divide. Unity based on control does not foster the loving fellowship that is founded solely on our brotherhood in Christ. Only in the cases of serious discipline, because of ongoing unrepented sin, should someone be kept from fellowship.

This sin can be when elders try to rule and over the church. This seems to be the sin that gets unnoticed because of our default to hierarchical control. See my posts Hierarchical Leadership – The Main Hindrance in the Body of Christ Part 6 and No Rank, only Roles in the Body of Christ for more on this sin.

In my next post I’ll share more on this hope.

Rob

Other posts in this series:

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 2: Issues and Opinions

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

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Free to be different

Free to be different

Exploring the possibility of real unity under one roof despite differences of opinion

There are all kinds of opinions on a wide range of important issues in the Body of Christ. To name just a few, consider matters like women in ministry, children ministry, our response to homosexuals, the gifts of the Spirit, and styles of church governance and leadership. These are some of the bigger challenges that we are sometimes faced with, which, if handled badly, can cause unnecessary division.

(In this post, I’ll be focusing on the effects that our differences of opinion have on unity. However, that said, it’s quite often the little foxes that ruin the vineyard. Things like gossip, unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness probably turn out to be more destructive and divisive than our differences over the larger issues.)

Now, regular church folk have a range of opinions on different topics. Some views may be quite developed while others are less established. Some are based on the Bible, others on what they’ve heard, and still others on what they feel, and to top it off there are those views that are endorsed with a “God told me…” label. And, oddly, some feel that the later can even trump the first (see my post, The Words of the Bible are Alive for more on this issue). Generally though, most views are often probably a combination of these sources.

Then, alongside (although sadly typically above these folk) are those who are discipling the flock, like your typical pastors and teachers. They tend to hold better honed, but, nevertheless, diverse opinions on different issues too. Based on the Bible of course! At least those that good evangelical Christians would even begin to consider listening to.

This is the conundrum, that those who claim that the Bible, undoubtedly the purest source, is their source of inspiration still get varied results. So, clearly claiming the correct source for your ideas does not mean that you have its content. Now, the problem is not the Bible, but the one reading and studying.

(For help on reading and studying your Bible I have a site that you might find useful at Bible Coaching: How to Read & Study the Bible.)

Chasing Nirvana

If the ideal was always true, where the life and thoughts that are shared and taught emanate only from Jesus and a pure understanding of the Bible, then all would be well. However, we know that such an ideal is an unrealistic constant and that at best exists only in part. Nevertheless, people, especially new believers, find comfort zones that appear to them to be the ideal, only later to discover the flaws. And, when this happens, and the issues are big, fellowship can be ruined.

Those happy with the status quo feel threatened when differing views crop up amongst members on important issues. Their insecurity and the need to have all persons think alike, demands that all should return to the default. Sadly, this protective response has the opposite effect and threatens to jettison the unity and fellowship rather than save it, or at best maintain only a false unity based on ignorance, fear, insecurity and intimidation. Would you like to join :)?

But, should our differences, even over big issues, divide us? And, can we maintain unity, able to lovingly fellowship week in and week out under the same roof despite the differences of opinion that may arise in our fellowships? History has shown that we have struggled to do this, but surely it’s possible?!

In my next post I’ll share more on this issue.

Rob

Part 1: God’s Home

Part 3: Blissfully Ignorant in My Church

Part 4: The Problem of Being Different in Church

Part 5: Dividing over Issues

Part 6: Loving the Wacky, Not Their Wackiness

Part 7: Preeminent Leaders and Super-Gurus

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