Denominational Differences – Deception or a Divine Diamond?
Many well-meaning leaders today are promoting the idea that we should be cautious when associating with Christians from other churches or denominations. Cautious – because there are deceivers in our midst, who would devour us – or so we are told. I won’t dispute that there are people in the body of Christ who are deceived. I won’t even dispute that I might be one of them.
What I believe today is different from what I believed 5 years ago. Back then I didn’t believe in healing. Today I do. From that fact alone – it’s obvious that either I was deceived then, or I’m deceived now. If we were honest with ourselves, we’d admit that something in our belief system is probably a little ‘off’ now and then. In one way or another – we are all somewhat deceived.The fact that we all hold to slightly different beliefs, means we all have slightly different practices. Diverse practices and beliefs separate us into sects and denominations.
There is a belief by the world that these differences are evidence that God’s plan must have gone haywire, somewhere along the way. The world asks, “How could so many different denominations (each one based on different beliefs and practices) have sprouted from the “one true way” if that way were really true?
Doesn’t such division prove that none of us are on the path to truth?
The bible speaks of believers as a body – as one being have many and diverse parts. It should surprise no one that the body of Christ has grown into an odd-looking collection of parts that don’t resemble one another, believe the same things or function in the same way. That’s what a body is.
Some believe that if we’re all being conformed into the image of Christ, we would all be identical. But that is not the case. Our conformity into the image of Christ speaks of our character being changed into the perfect image of love. Our differentiation and uniqueness, (especially in the areas of form and function) are retained in the process of sanctification. Unity in the spirit of love does not erase uniqueness in gifting.
What if, instead of being evidence of religious schizophrenia and falsehood, the differences between denominations and streams of Christianity were more like the facets of a diamond? A natural diamond reflects one type of light, but each facet of the body of Christ reflects its own unique part of the spectrum of God’s gory revealing a unique aspect of His eternal truth. One cannot fully appreciate the light and glory of God in the church unless one looks at every facet.
A friend once suggested that each subgroup of Christianity exists by God’s design and that each has been given an eternal truth to preserve – and that the totality of true Christian doctrine can only be seen by viewing the truths contained in all of them, while ignoring each one’s errors. It’s frightening to consider the possibility – that rather than having a monopoly on truth, each of us may only be holding on to a small speck of it. Frightening perhaps, but I think this is the case, however humbling it may be.
God is emphasizing unity during the days we live in. While men may emphasize suspicion, separatism, and mistrust of others, God is emphasizing understanding, brotherly love and cooperation among the different parts of His body. The prayer of Jesus was that we would be one as He and the Father are one. The body cannot be divided by man. It has been united once and for all by Christ himself for a divine purpose – the perfect revelation of the glory of God in the earth.
Let us endeavor to live in the unity of the spirit, in the bonds of love.