Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Denomination Abomination

I recently had a conversation with a couple who was condemning a local church due to its stand on denomination. These two were born into the Baptist denomination and have been raised to believe that only Baptists can claim to be Jesus’ church. I found it upsetting to think that one group of believers could so blatantly judge another group of Christians.

If we are to be true Christians, followers of Christ, then we need to determine what Jesus’ denomination was. Well, Jesus was not a Baptist. Neither was he Methodist, Catholic, Lutheran, Church of Christ, Pentecostal, or any other denomination. In Jesus’ day there were only two sets of people – believers and non-believers. Either you were a follower of Jesus, or you were not. Denominations existed even prior to Jesus. The Jews had their faith, while the Greeks had a different religion, and the Philistines another, and so on. Jesus could have attached Himself to a religion, but He did not.

Contrary to what many may thing, Baptists cannot trace their religious lineage back to John the Baptist. John was called “John the Baptizer” because he was a baptizer of believers. It was his occupation, not his denomination. The Baptist faith was actually started by two men in Germany in 1519, Zwingli and Smythe, who called the religion “Anabaptist” which meant to re-baptize. They did not believe in the baptism of infants that was practiced by the Catholic Church. Eventually, the “Ana” was dropped and they began to be called “Baptist”.

I attend a Baptist church because I believe the Baptist faith follows the word of God more closely than any other denomination I have found. But I do not hang the word Baptist over my heart as the label in which it belongs to. It belongs to Christ, and none other.

The separation of believers into groups by denomination has sewn discord among believers. To force someone to label his or her belief by denomination is wrong. To God these separations are an abomination – the last of seven mentioned in Proverbs 6:16-19 that it says our Lord hates: “and one who sows discord among brethren“. What greater discord than to create religions that separate us as believers into different worship services each and every Sunday?

How can we call ourselves Christians and say we hold the truth and despise our brothers and sisters because of their understanding of the scriptures? In 1 John 4:8 we read “He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” We cannot be Christians and reject those who do not believe the Bible exactly as we do.

How can we hope to be the light of this world if we refuse to associate with those who do not carry the approved label of our own religion?

How can we hope to have any Christian influence if the only thing we show to other denominations is judgement and ridicule?

How can we be of God if we treat His children in this way?

Jesus will return for His Church one day. He won’t be going around knocking on only the Baptist church doors, or the Methodist, or the Church of Christ, or the Catholic. He won’t look to see who is in attendance, who is on the membership role, and from that start calling them onto His cloud. He will return and take all those who are members of his Church, the Body of Christ, back with Him to Heaven. What makes you a part of the Body of Christ? Having the Holy Spirit within you, which is given when you became a believer (Ephesians 1:13).

I am so glad that we follow Jesus, instead of Jesus complying with our rules in order to make us Christians! Imagine if Jesus treated other believers the way we do. What if He decided where he'd send his Spirit based on how people dressed, the tempo in which they sang, what they sang, whether they lifted their hands or sat quietly, how long their hair was, whether the women wore pants or skirts, whether they were anointed with Holy water or oil, and so forth? We’d be so attentive to following the rules of worship that we’d probably forget that worship is meant to focus on God – not ourselves. When religion gets in the way of worship it becomes Satan’s tool. (Read that again – it’s important!)

So what should we do? Do we argue the point on denominations? No! In 2 Timothy 2:22-26 we read how we handle disputes among those who truly believe themselves to be Christians: “Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” Friends, humble correction will never result in an argument or hurt feelings. If you can’t find a way to proclaim your belief without hurting the person you’re talking to, then maybe it’s not God’s will for you to say it at all!

We are commanded to love our brothers and sisters. It’s a command. There is no discussion. And moreover, if they are true believers of Jesus, they are part of the Body of Christ. Ephesians 5:29-30 states “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones.” Not loving those brothers and sisters is rejecting the very body of Christ of which we are a part. They are members of His flesh and His bones. We cannot simply tolerate them, but we are to love them with agape love, which is unconditional Christ-like love. When we learn to love as Christ loves we can all become one body again without the separations of denominations.

Lord Jesus! Let it be so!

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