If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Fellowship and Divison - part two

In part one of this two-part essay, we looked at the cost of koinonia (fellowship) with Jesus that Paul wrote of in 1 Corinthians 1:9. In part two we turn our attention to what he says about the sin of division in the family of God. You can find part one here:

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

Let me illustrate, from my own experience, Paul’s point about division in the Christian family.

In 1976 I’d been a Christian for four years – but I’d spent those years overseas in Japan where I was stationed with the Navy. So, my only exposure to Christians of different theological persuasions was at the interdenominational base chapel and at an interdenominational mission center a few blocks from the naval base. I had no idea that Christ’s body was so divided – until my discharge from the navy and our arrival in Springfield, Missouri where I attended Central Bible College – known in town as CBC. It was an Assemblies of God Bible college, Pentecostal in theology. In the same town was another Bible college, this one called Baptist Bible College, known as BBC. 

A few days after arriving in town, I needed an antibiotic prescription filled at a local pharmacy. I gave the druggist my name, address, and the school I attended – CBC – as my insurance provider. I returned later that day to pick up my prescription. The pharmacist confirmed my name, address, and insurance coverage by BBC.

When I told him I attended CBC, he blushed, and stuttered his apology. “I’m so sorry. I thought you’d told me you are a student at BBC.”

I shrugged my shoulders and told him it wasn’t a problem. I paid for my prescription and left the store wondering why he was so apologetic over a simple mistake. It was not until a few weeks later that I learned many students from each school had nothing good to say about each other.

The perplexing thing about that division in Springfield is this: Both groups believe God is eternal, that He is not a created Being, but has always existed as the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent Creator God. Both groups believe Jesus is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. They believe Jesus was not a created being, but He is co-eternal and co-existent with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Both groups believe Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, He lived a sinless life, He suffered and died a torturous and substitutionary death on the cross to pay for our sins. They believe He rose again on the third day from death, and that He is will return for His Church, which is His Body.

BOTH groups believe the essential truths leading to eternal life. Where Pentecostals and Baptists disagree, they disagree regarding things NOT essential to believe for salvation, such as “Is ‘speaking in tongues’ a gift of the Holy Spirit for today?” Or can a Christian lose his or her salvation? Believing or rejecting either of those doctrines has no effect whatever on the eternal destiny of the person. None.

Someone wisely said this about doctrines: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” Oh, that we in the church at Ashwood Meadows would take to heart the truth.

The Christians of Springfield, Missouri had such a sad reputation of mutual distrust for each that their non-Christlike attitude was well known in the town. What do you think the Lord Jesus Christ thought of their reputation? And what do you think He thinks of our reputation here, of our infighting, our backbiting? 

Let me tell you why I say that. God has given me the privilege these last four years to bring His word to every person at this 55+ community who will listen.

But I am so very sorry to say that I have heard from time to time that some Protestants in this community won't attend my studies or sermons because I am a Catholic. But on the other hand, there are Catholics in this community who do not attend because I sound too much like a Protestant.

But it’s worse even than that. I’ve also been told that some residents have actually persuaded others who USED TO attend Bible studies and sermons to stop attending because I do not teach what they consider true Christian theology.

Oh, how sad is that? God has sent me here to encourage the sorrowful, to bring hope to those losing hope, and to exhort everyone toward holiness without which, as the writer to the Hebrews warned, without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14). Yet because I do not belong to what some consider the correct church, they keep themselves away from the Word of God each week – and they persuade others to stay away as well.

How must the Lord Jesus feel because of our divisions?

Here is what Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:20-21 - “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.”

And what Paul wrote to the church at Galatia, he would have also written to the churches in Springfield, Missouri – AND to our little community as well: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:14-17)

The Lord Jesus warned us in Matthew 12: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” (Matthew 12:25) Don’t you think Satan also knows that Scripture? And he has deftly used that principle of division since the first century.

The Holy Spirit wants to feed our spirits with His truth. But we cut off His voice when we spend our time biting and devouring one another, when we spend our time finding fault with one another, when we waste our time dismissing one another because they don’t believe as we believe.

Please, let’s focus our attention – whatever is our church label – let’s focus on winning the lost for Jesus Christ. And put into practice: In essentials – unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.

Time is too short to play church. If Jesus is not Lord of everything in our life, then He is not Lord at all. 

There are no half-way disciples.


Francisco Javier said...

Solo quería decirle también que no le voy a escribir nunca más.
El escapulario de la Virgen del Carmen es muy importante también, pero te lo tiene que imponer un sacerdote con unas oraciones especiales, sino no lo lleva usted impuesto y las promesas de la Virgen no tienen validez.

Rich Maffeo said...

Can anyone reading this translate for me? For some reason (unless I am doing something wrong) I don't see a 'translation' button from blogger.