When you are tempted to think you are at war with fellow Christians, remember: Christ “has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” If it’s true for Jewish persons and Gentiles, how much for us already a new creation in Christ (Eph 2:15)?
Social media, online communication, and the speed of the news tempt us to vilify each other for clout, sales, or whatever else. Often, however, the real war is the war in our heart—it deceives and tempts us (James 4:1).
For the past year, Christians have grown increasingly frustrated with one another. People have left churches. Pastors have attacked pastors. Online wars have commenced. There is a place to write, defend, and engage in polemics. But in so doing, we need to maintain what is objectively true: we are one body of Christ objectively: “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).
Our subjective feelings of hatred or frustration need to match what is objectively true about our body. And we should love our body, love another as the Bible often commends.
Here I am distinguishing between what is objectively true and what we subjectively feel. A goal of the Christian life is, however, to form our affective life in such a way that we feel what is objectively true. I am not talking about butterflies in our tummies. I am talking about our whole body, mind, and soul in concert experiencing the love of Christ our head and Christ our body (each other).
Now Jesus loved even his enemies (Rom 5:8–10). And he lived and died what he taught: “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt 5:44). If Jesus can love his enemies, how much more ought we to love the body of Christ?
We have let ideology divide us. However, the Gospel, not ideology, lies at the centre of our unity. The important topics of mode of baptism or eschatology should not divide us at the level of Gospel unity. These differences may lead to the formations of a denominations. But denominations are, as the name indicates, denominations or parts of the whole.
The division I am thinking of falls along the lines of the Donatists of old. They thought themselves to be the pure church. Others were not. They excluded and pushed everyone away. This tendency towards exclusion rather than embrace underlies my critique here.
We let our political ideology and other matters divide us, create pockets of exclusion that go beyond the simple level of agreeing to function as one denomination of the whole.
Our political positions (is the government good or bad, etc.) may make us disagree. But it should not divide. That is schism. And that is deeply wrong. As a friend recently noted, many of us think the virus and its handling are the greatest threat to the church right now. It is not. It is schism.
We may not always agree with each other; we may even have healthy but strong disagreements like any family has. But we must always love each other (Rom 12:10) because we are one body (Rom 12:4–5).