Various Thoughts on Unity in the Church
Mark Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, see to if they could get along. They did, so he put a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got
along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist; soon there was not a living thing left. (Phillip Yancey, What’s so Amazing About Grace, Zondervan, 1997, p33)
The German philosopher Schopenhauer compared the human race to a bunch of porcupines huddling together on a cold winter’s night. He said, “The colder it gets outside, the more we huddle together for warmth; but the closer we get to one another, the more we hurt one another with our sharp quills. And in the lonely night of earth’s winter eventually we begin to drift apart and wander out on our own and freeze to death in our loneliness. “Christ has given us an alternative – to forgive each other for the pokes we receive. That allows us to stay together and stay warm. (Wayne Brouwer, Holland, Michigan, quoted in Leadership, p. 68.)
There are those in the church who believe that church union is the way God’s kingdom will advance in the world. They believe that Christianity would be greatly advanced if all Christian denominations could come together in a union. Such people fail to understand there is a difference between union and unity. Two cats tied by their tails and thrown over a clothesline may be in union, but they do not have unity.
ESV Psalm 133:1-3 Look how good and how pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil on the head, descendingto the beard-even to Aaron beard – and flowing down to the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon falling on Zion’s mountains. For there the Lord commanded his blessing- life everlasting.
Esv John 17:11 (Jesus praying to His Father.) I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by your Name, the Name that you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one.
One of the bonuses of being a Christian is the wonderful hope that extends beyond the grave into the glory of God’s tomorrow. I have talked to doctors and nurses who have held the hands of dying people, and they say there is as much difference between the death of a Christian and of a non- Christian as there is between Heaven and hell. The death of the righteous is not to be feared- it is not to be shunned. It is the shadowed threshold to the palace of God. No wonder Balaam said, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his!” ( Numbers 23:10) Let’s notice some of the statements in the Bible about the death of a Christian, as distinguished from the death of a sinner who refuses or neglects to believe in Jesus Christ.
First, to the Christian, death is said in the Bible to be a coronation. The picture here is that of a regal prince who, after his struggles and conquests in an alien land, comes to his native country and court to be crowned and honoured for his deeds. The Bible says we are pilgrims and strangers in a foreign land. This world is not our home; our citizenship is in Heaven. To those who are faithful, Christ will give a crown of life. Paul said, “Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8) When D.L. Moody was dying, he looked up to Heaven and said, “Earth is receding; Heaven is opening. This is my coronation day.” Yes, death is the Christian’s coronation, the end of conflict and the beginning of glory and triumph in Heaven.
Second, the Bible speaks of the death of a Christian as a rest from labour. The Bible says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…..they may rest from their labours.”(Revelation 14:13) It is as if the Lord of the harvest says to the weary labourer, “You have been faithful in your task, come and sit in the sheltered porch of my palace and rest from your labours-enter now into the joy of your Lord.”
Third, the Bible speaks of death as a departure. When Paul approached the valley of the shadow of death, he did not shudder with fear; rather, he announced with a note of triumph, “The time of my departure is at hand.” (2 Timothy4:6) The word departure literally means “to pull up anchor and to set sail.” Everything that happens prior to death is a preparation for the journey. Death marks the beginning, not the end. It is a solemn, dramatic step in our journey to God. Believers know, as did Paul, that “He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day”(2 Timothy 1:12) The Christian says “goodbye”, but only until the day breaks and the shadows flee.
Fourth, the Bible speaks of the death of a Christian as a transition. Paul wrote,” For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
Death to the Christian is the exchanging of a tent for a building. Here we are as pilgrims or refugees, living in a frail flimsy home- subject to disease, pain and peril. But at death, we exchange this crumbling disintegrating tent for a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. The wandering wayfarers come to their own at death and are given the title to a mansion that will never deteriorate or crumble.
GUILTY BEFORE THE LAW
In one of his sermons, the preacher, AC Dixon, told of an incident that took place in Brooklyn, N.Y. USA.
A detective who had been looking for a local citizen finally tracked him down in a drugstore. As the man began to make his purchase, the officer laid his hand on the citizen’s shoulder and said, ‘You’re under arrest come with me!” Stunned, the man demanded, “What did I do?”
The detective calmly replied, “You know what you did. You escaped from the Albany penitentiary several years ago. ‘You went west, got married, and then came back here to live. We’ve been watching for you since you returned.” Quietly the man admitted, “That’s true, but I was sure you’d never find me. Before you take me in, could we stop by my house so I can talk to my family?” The officer agreed. When they got to his home, the man looked at his wife and asked, “Haven’t I been a kind husband and a good father? Haven’t I worked hard to make a living?”
His wife answered, “Of course you have, but why are you asking me these questions?”
Her husband then proceeded to explain what had happened and that he was now under arrest. He apparently had hoped that his record as an exemplary husband and father would impress the officer. He may well have been an exemplary husband, but that did not change the fact that he was an escaped criminal. Though he was ‘right’ with his family, he was all wrong with the state of New York.
We may well be exemplary citizens and we may well live an upright life, but we are all felons in God’s sight We have all broken God’s law and fallen short of His glory. We all stand guilty before God, and our only hope is not to hope that our good deeds will cancel out our sins. There is only one thing that can wash away our sins, nothing but the blood of Jesus. lt is only through faith In Jesus Christ, that we can be acquitted of our sins.