The modern church has expanded and perverted unity to become accommodation of ungodly doctrines. This in itself is as ungodly a concept as exits. I have seen this accommodation go to the point that we would be asked to accept Allah as the equivalent to God (Jehovah). I want to define here the line where the desire for unity becomes accommodation, the line that we must draw in the sand that is the line where we part company with those who teach error. Let me give you the good side of the line. Jesus defined one aspect of unity when his disciples encountered someone who was casting out devils in his name.
38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
John, the one who would fifty or so years later write about love misses it here. He wants to keep the gospel in a little clique. Maybe this was the lesson that taught him the love that he later so aptly expounds. And Jesus corrects him. Jesus clearly defined here that anyone who is doing the work of Christ is in unity with us. This is a good guideline to follow. But to the Pharisees who followed John said.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
He offered no quarter to those who would pervert the word of God. He offered no accommodation to those who would place burdens that went beyond the law on others. Likewise Paul places a high premium on unity in the faith.
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
He gave no quarter to those who would pervert the gospel, even taking Peter to task for permitting the Judizing of the gospel. Let us remember this when we see those who would take us back to our “roots”, i.e. Judaism, those who would take us back to the Hebrew to sound religious. There are also those who would ignore grace so they could preach the law and be better than everyone else.
11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
But I think Paul again covers the issue well with one verse when he asks about the source of our salvation.
1 Cor 1:13
13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
If we are in Him we are one in Christ. We are not Baptists, Lutherans, Pentecostals, Assembly of God, Messianic Jews, or Catholics. We are Christians. These names divide. They have no place in the kingdom. I think it would be easier to prove by scripture and history that these names are counterproductive to the spreading the gospel. I thank God that the last three churches I have attended did not have the affiliation with any name. It is interesting to me that at least one of the church reformers, Menno Simons asked his followers not to name another sect after him. But they waited till he was dead and did it in spite of his admonition. I have no way of knowing how many more of these men of the faith (Luther, Wesley, etc.) did that but looking at where these organizations have gone I suspect many of them might not want them to be named after them. The unity that Paul talks about is more of supporting one another in the faith than being one hundred percent in agreement on every detail. But it seems to be more that we concentrate on the detail and not the supporting each other.
The bickering over whether to pray standing, sitting, kneeling front or back, at the seat, on a prayer bench, at an alter, in a prayer closet, or whatever is certainly not of God. The scripture is clear on one thing; we are to pray. It is not very clear on how. Maybe that is best left to us individually? Let me set this one in perspective. I grew up kneeling backwards. Reason? Simple. We had benches made of sawmill lumber in a MASH tent. There was no padded prayer bench on the seat in front of you. We couldn’t have afforded them at that time. And the seats were close enough that you couldn’t kneel forward. We didn’t do it because of some great theological decision or meeting of the board. There was no board to meet and decide. It was just people meeting together to worship God and bring others to know him. The spacing of the seats was just practical economics. They were close together to get more seating in the tent because it was often full. We even “skirted” the tent to make it about 6 feet wider to get more in. People came there to meet God. But if today you go into many of the churches that came from those meetings you will actually find people preaching that praying any other way is wrong. I’ve heard it. Personally I don’t kneel as much as I once did to pray and when I do I try to find a soft spot on the carpet. That isn’t theological either. It is the result of common sense relating to 59 year old knee joints that have seen some damage. They don’t tolerate the pressure as well as they did. And when I do kneel it is frequently to the front because it is easier to get up from that position.
So how do I personally handle this? Easy. Unless a church asks me to do something against the laws of God or the civil government I follow the rule, “When in Rome do as the Romans.” Not literally, but you know what I mean. I have been in services where they stand, sit, kneel, or use a prayer bench to pray and I do what they do. Why? You think maybe I want to conform? I never was into conformity. Conformity has no value. You should know me better than that. I don’t want to give reason for one of my brothers and sisters to stumble by my freedom. What value would that have? I can pray walking the halls of the office I work in, I can pray on a lawn chair in the back yard. I can pray with a microphone in front of a couple hundred people.
1 Cor 8:8-9
8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.
9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.
1 Cor 8:13
13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
And there are other items that have plagued the church that are even more ludicrous than how we pray. The Saturday Sabbath crowd or more exactly the Friday sundown to Saturday sundown crowd is an example. Let me set this one straight. I don’t want to see any e-mails on the Saturday Sabbath because I am not going to read them. If you personally see holding to the Saturday Sabbath as the right way, don’t let me deter you in any way. I will allow that and will not try to change your mind or offend. I would not knowingly come to your house or place of business on a Sabbath and ask you to violate it except in the case that Jesus excepted the Sabbath, the ox in a mud hole. I will avoid offending where possible. But when you try to put the yoke of bondage you accept for yourself on others you and I part company.
It is no longer our maintaining unity. It is you wanting me to accommodate you in going beyond the bounds of scripture and teaching as a command what is not. That is a violation of the commandment against taking the name of the Lord in vain. In that I cannot even tacitly participate or allow you to do it without warning you of the error. And if you want to extol the idea as the greatest, have at it. But tell how it blesses you and why others should try it and stop there. Stop well short of telling everyone that they should live this way or they are going to hell. That is the boundary, the line in the sand that I will not tolerate. You will say, “Ah, but the scripture says.” No. No. No. This is one of those places where there as many (probably more) scriptural arguments that you are wrong as you are right. And the ones that show you to be wrong are new covenant which is our mantle now. The ones you use are old covenant. Unless there are at least a half dozen clear-cut places that the early church followed it I don’t see any concept as fruit for doctrine. And there are none from the early church for the Saturday Sabbath.
The early church actually met on Sunday for a very practical reason. The Jewish Christians met in the synagogue on Saturday with the rest of the Jews, possibly to placate them and prevent being cut off from inheritances. Then on the next day they met as Christians. It had nothing to do with the Sun God worship you hear the Saturday Sabbathers tout. They met for on the next day for convenience. What a blow to the E. G. White clan.
Paul said of this particular one.
1 Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.
2 For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth herbs.
3 Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.
4 Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
5 One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
6 He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.
Paul said it this way. “One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.” If you are persuaded, fine. I am not. To me it is baggage. Don’t try to drag others into your bondage.
There are other like issues all too numerous to mention but KJV only, women in ministry, and tongues are some examples. The latter two I try to avoid unless pressed by someone imposing bondage. I speak in tongues but I will not allow someone to press tongues on someone who does not believe them to be right nor will I speak in tongues when it will knowingly offend. But I will not allow someone to say they are of the devil without challenge. My answer to that is simple. If you don’t know about them, pray that God will enlighten you. Likewise women in ministry, if the person is speaking about personal preference, fine. When it becomes mandatory, impressed on others and bondage, I correct. Those who spout the KJV only I take on quickly and without question because the foundation of this teaching is nothing more than a stack of lies. There can be no accommodation there. If you happen to like reading Shakespearian language, have at the KJV.
And that is the line I draw. Where it is false teaching, there is no accommodation. Where it is lack of understanding or personal feelings, I stand aside unless the person is imposing that bondage on others.
Sometimes it helps to see the origins of the teaching. Many of these pet theologies have been brought to us by the “religious leaders” of the past. It is interesting to note that the reformers themselves are rarely if ever the source of the trash but it came from those who followed them in their attempts to clarify the message of the reformer. This is like those who take a modern day or biblical prophecy and try to explain it. They usually come up with trash. Some time read Luther’s thesis. It is good reading. If you want a copy it is available on the web. It is real good. And I have never been a Lutheran, have only been in Lutheran churches for weddings, funerals and family visits. These reformations start out good but as time goes on the organization “grows up” and matures. It becomes an organization, not a living organism that the church was to be. It becomes a place where people jostle and contend for power. It becomes political. They campaign for office rather than being called by God. The same type of thing happens to the military in times of peace. The men who excel and rise in peacetime are not the spiritual (or military) leaders, they are the ones who are politically astute. And as such when a reformation (or war) comes they become unnecessary. The real fighters don’t have those political skills in either area.
On December 8, 1941 we entered the war against Japan. Within a year many of the Army and Navy combat leaders were new faces. It was not just because of growth of the armed forces, many of the old faces were absent from the combat arenas. As an example, over half of our submarines on 12/8/42 where commanded by men who a year before were neither Captains nor Executive officers of submarines. Why? Many of the men who were there on 12/8/41 were good at writing reports and not good at fighting a war. After two patrols of being too timid a Captain was replaced, frequently by the Exec. If he came back with the same kind of first patrol as captain, he too was replaced. They got shore jobs maneuvering boat loads of ammunition and toilet paper to the right places. And all too often the leaders of church organizations are better at writing reports, being published, coming up with something “new”, and leading planning meetings than proclaiming the word of God and leading people to Christ.
I know of no leader of any reformation movement that came from the top two layers of the organization that was being reformed in business, government or the church. The reformers are men who do not have a vested interest in the current state of affairs. They see beyond what is and see what must be. Unfortunately all too often the old organization continues on its former course, not recognizing that anything has occurred. It treats the reformers as malcontents who are leaving by back door evangelism. There are dozens of stories of ideas being discarded by a business and the person leaving and making the idea a success. Unfortunately when the church goes off course usually the only way to not follow the error is to leave.
In the 1950’s a man entered an office at Eastman Kodak with a box with some circuitry. He placed it on the table and showed how he could produce rough a black and white copy of a typed document. The Kodak leadership told him it had no use to them, they produced high quality film to make high quality pictures, not the low quality ones he showed them. They also told him black and white was the past, color was the future. He left the room, left Kodak and formed another company to produce and market the device. That company is today Xerox. Eastman also rejected Land’s invention of the instant development camera that became the first product of Polaroid corporation because the film did not produce high quality pictures. As a side note, I have pictures from the early 1960’s taken by one of those Polaroid cameras, the 88 which took wallet sized pictures. I can scan them today and blow them up to 4×6 and the detail is still sharp. Kodak missed it. Later they saw their mistake and came out with an instant camera, only to have it fail because of the Polaroid patent.
One of the sobering things I have seen in recent years is that I know of Christian groups that did not exist when I was born that are into the mature state. The backwoods Pentecostals did it shortly after they got enough money to move out of the packing sheds, fire halls, tents and homes and build churches. About fifteen years ago I stood with a group of men at a Pine Block Derby race and heard them talk of their denominational doctrine as if it were God’s word. I thought it was an anomaly but I have since seen it happen enough to wipe away that hope. I have even seen several younger groups exhibit this growing up.
Somewhere we have to get back to the Word of God, the word as it is on the page, not as it was on the page written by someone with a publish or perish mentality. We need the word, not how they interpreted it. When we shun those writings of man and we all start from the same page, it will be easier to come to the unity of the faith.