Ecumenism (Unity in the Corporate Body of Christ)
Within a couple years of having made decision for Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, God impressed upon me to write about the existence of division within the Body of Christ. His desire is unity and a focus on that which is most important - loving Him and our neighbors as ourselves.
I believe what prompted this was my having come to know Jesus while hanging out with Southern Baptists in Hawaii. I began growing in my faith and serving with others right from the get go. In so doing, I became acquainted with other believers from the Assembly's of God and The Four Square church in my town. Together we served the community in various ways and the Catholic church would also sometimes participate. I was cautioned however about some 'doctrinal differences' and sadly realized division existed. So understand that what I'm sharing is in reference to The Church and The Corporate Body, not one church in particular.
Unless I'm mistaken, the church first experienced division over the subject of circumcision. The Jews wanted the Gentiles to become Jews by adhering to the Law. It seemed that only as Jews, did some of the apostles find the Gentiles acceptable. Paul argued to let Jews be Jews, and let Gentiles be Gentiles because the same Spirit has been poured out on all those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. All people, no matter their race or their nation, are acceptable to God. Christ has set us free, and he desires for us to love him and one another. Regarding the Jews and the Gentiles, Paul says in Ephesians 2:14-18, "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with it's commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." Paul goes on to say God's people are all members of His household, vs. 20-22 says we are "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit."
Today, I believe division exists for various reasons and as long as it continues, I don't believe we are going to be very effective in furthering the kingdom. An obstacle that I believe hinders us from growing as Spirit filled believer's includes being too comfortable and resisting change. It's simply human nature that gives us the tendency to associate with others who are like ourselves; those who share the same interests, ideas and attitudes about life in general. I believe we should be challenged to be more like Jesus, which involves loving and associating with people from all walks of life. Remember the body is a unit, though made up of many parts. Be challenged to bless someone who has nothing much in common with yourself; the recipient of the blessing isn't the only one who will be touched by it. Be encouraged in this because we are told in Joshua 1, "Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. Be strong and very courageous.....Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go."
Division also exists due to lack of understanding about spiritual gifts and God wants us to move and grow in the gifts He has given us. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:1, "Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant." In this chapter, Paul refers to some of the following gifts: the message of wisdom, the message of knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, distinguishing between spirits, speaking in tongues, the interpretation of tongues. He ends the third paragraph of this chapter by saying,"All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one just as he determines." It has been my experience having fellowshipped with people from various congregations that some of these gifts can be a stumbling block. Although people may not be aware they may possess and express negative attitudes regarding certain gifts, these attitudes and expressions are out there. It's ludicrous to me that some believe that some gifts were only for a certain time period - Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know some have asked God to bless them with certain gifts and they believe He hasn't, which for them is difficult to understand since God wants to give good gifts to His children. I believe God is not going to bestow certain gifts to those who have spoken negatively about anointed members from churches - or the churches themselves. We must have a clean heart and a right attitude. In Mark 11:17 Jesus said, "Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.' But you have made it a den of robbers!" Some may think what I'm about to say is taken out of context yet I believe it's revelatory...I think it's possible Jesus was upset here because His house of worship had not only become a place for doing business, but because it became a barrier for some of those simply wanting to worship. Just for the record, I do believe order in church needs to exist. The main thing is the main thing though and that is who Jesus is, what he did and why we need him. Lord Jesus, may the walls come down and unity prevail! If some have received gifts which are unfamiliar or different from anothers, may you bring to their minds that our gifts are designed to root us deeper in You, equip us for service, build one another up, and not discourage or move us away from You or each other. May there not be any dissension over gifts, but may we be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and may any unholy thought be taken captive...In Jesus name - amen.
To contrast that, I'd also caution some Christians not to conduct themselves as though they have an air of spiritual superiority because of how they've been blessed and or the gifts they've received. If we live and act without love, our gifts are meaningless. Humility must be preserved. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all - for His glory!
In Mark 11:12-15, Jesus was hungry (people come across our paths all the time who are in need, whether it be spiritually, physically, emotionally, relationally, financially etc). He came across a great looking fig tree, but it only looked good - it was without fruit. He said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." May we operate freely in our giftings and be good stewards of our talents. May we give of ourselves, meet others needs, and do all these things with right attitudes and motives, in love and unity.