4 Jesus: Keep the Christ in Christianity

Ultimately Divisive

The problem is not that doctrines, experiences, or good works are inherently wrong; the trouble comes when we try to define our corporate identity with them. One of the most serious problems with a “boundary” approach is that it tends to include some who aren’t really “in” with Jesus while excluding others who are His delight!

Suppose a man or woman is “blessed” with an extraordinarily strong will. They love to get things done, and they usually find a creative way to succeed. What if this person turns to religion as a socially accepted, even “noble,” avenue for this willpower? Jesus loves him, but until he truly bows his knees toJesus from the heart, he will never be a Christian. Yet such a man in an unconverted state could find acceptance in a group of believers that finds its identity in its works. He might even rise to leadership—at great cost to the flock.

Or consider another person, one who loves Jesus and lives for Him, whose daily life is full of spiritual fruit. Yet this person, though genuinely devoted to Christ, cannot in honesty embrace certain of the doctrines of a particular group. He is putting his full weight down on the one God, serving the one Lord, and longing to function in the one Body; he has received the one Baptism and drunk deeply of the one Spirit. Yet this believer could well be excluded from a local assembly based on his inability to endorse wholeheartedly a “disputable matter” (Rom. 14). Could there be anything more divisive than a group of people uniting around some common belief or practice, choosing a distinguishing name for themselves, and behaving as if (despite protests to the contrary) they are the only true church?

The results of choosing an arbitrary identity for the local church, based on our human intellects or emotions or will, is that the church becomes mixed and fragmented. Our boundaries will include leaven in the batch, and the whole loaf will be affected. And our lines of fellowship will separate people who desperately need each other!


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