Not long ago (March 23-26), I wrote a four-part series entitled "The Evolving Church Age." In it, I tried to explain how the Church went from being a small Jewish Sect, to becoming a large, divided monstrosity. While Christian understanding of the doctrines and prophecies in the Word evolved over time, the Church's regard for unity devolved into thousands of denominations, all believing they are right and everyone else is wrong. It has even gotten to the point where many believe only they are saved. I have met many believers, who upon finding out I profess to be a Christian, began asking my views on the doctrines that are unique to their "brand" of Christianity. Was I baptized? How was I baptized? Did I receive "the baptism of the Holy Ghost?" How often do you go to church and on which days? Does your church have elders, bishops, apostles, etc.? Only when I have answered every question to their satisfaction, am I accepted as a "true brother in Christ." Having met their standards, I can be assured of spending eternity with them. I am not sure I want to.
Recently, I had a facebook friend whose family member had died. In an effort to comfort and encourage him, I said that, assuming she was a Christian, the loss was only temporary and that he would spend eternity with her. His response was, "She was not a Christian. She was a Catholic." My heart went from hurting because a friend had lost a loved one, to hurting because that same friend had such a narrow view of what constitutes being a Christian. In his mind, Catholics are all going to hell. It is incredible that many denominations feel the same way about members of other denominations. While this phenomena has become epidemic within Christendom, it is not new. Paul ran into it in the divided church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 3:1-15). He had earlier helped reconcile Jewish and Gentile believers in Acts 15, and in Galatians 3:26-29. But, as they say, history has a way of repeating itself.
When I first became a believer in Christ, I also fell into Satan's trap by becoming "a discerner" of who was, and who wasn't saved. If a person held beliefs different from mine, like the obsessive compulsive person that I am, I set about "to convert" them to "the truth." Over the years, I have grown some in my understanding of God's Word and His children. I know that I am not going to change these folk's minds, and to even try would simply get me labeled as a liberal, or worse, as a heretic. In a way, I am glad that I understand this now, because I spend far less time trying to convert others to my view on doctrine, and more time on trying to reach the lost with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the reasons the Church has failed to reach the world for Christ is found in the Lord's prayer in John 17. Four times, He asks His Father to make believers unified. Verses 11, 21-23 declare it is our unity that convinces the world God loves them. So instead of focusing on what makes us divided, we need to focus on what makes a person a Christian: confession that Jesus is Lord, and the belief that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9-10). Period!