Yesterday, I posted in an extremely rambling fashion about the value of struggle in our walk with God. Now I want to talk about the value of dis-unity.
Unity in the Body of the Messiah has all too often been a siren’s call to the perversion of truth. How often have we heard Yeshua’s prayer, "that they may be one," cited by someone attempting to get you and I to submit to compromise what we believe to be right, or to join some ecumenical organization. Indeed, Ecumenism–not just cooperation between brothers in Messiah, but between the alleged followers of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and outright pagan religions–is the coming world religion. The love of the truth is being trampled on by those crying out for "Unity"!
Division in the service of the love of the truth is no vice, and unity at the expense of the pursuit of truth no virtue.
"Tolerance" is the watchword of 21st Century American culture, and "intolerant" its worst insult. This would all be well and good if "tolerant" still had it’s original meaning: A person who can be polite to and even love someone he disagrees with. Now it means that we’re not supposed to voice a moral opinion that dessents from the zeitgeist. That might make someone uncomfortable or even hurt their feelings, don’t you know.
Besides, is it really a virtue to be tolerant of everything, even using the original definition? Should we be tolerant of murder? Of abuse? Of theft?
What about of blasphemy? Of heresy? Of false prophets? Of hypocricy?
What about simple error? Should it be given a lukewarm tolerance, or should it be challenged?
I’m not saying that we should be jerks about our disagreements. I’m not saying that every disagreement needs to be divisive. I am saying that the disagreements, even the ones that divide us into separate denominations and groups or which spark vehement arguments, actually work within the plan of the Holy One.
When people talk about unity, they forget that it’s been tried before. All humanity was united . . . in the defiance of God, in the refusal to spread out and differentiate, and in the attempt to build its own tower to the heavens. Therefore, the Holy One divided their languages and forced them to scatter into many nations for the specific purpose that each nation might seek Him in their own way (Acts 17:27).
Therefore, we have to wonder just what was Christianity’s sin, Christianity’s Babel, that made the Holy One divide it into hundreds of denominations and tens of thousands of independent churches?
And if indeed the Holy One has divided the Body in response to some sin, we need to be very careful about how we come back together lest we find ourselves back to work on the ziggurat.
Let me look at the Messianic movement as a microcosm of the issue for a moment. The truth is, there is no Messianic movement. There is a whole spectrum if mini-movements that gather under the big tent of "Messianic," spanning from Hebrew Roots Christianity to Messianic Orthodox Judaism (yes, they do exist). In that mix you have your Two-House/Ephramites, your Sacred Namers, your Pentecostals who like using a few Hebrew words, and your outright wacked-out cults.
And because of that, we’ve packed several centuries of theological development into a few decades. Yes, there are errors and even heresies that must ultimately be dealt with, and there are in fact cultic groups in the movement(s), but nevertheless the Spirit has moved in an amazing way in such a short time that we can clearly see the hand of God at work.
As I said in yesterday’s post, I think there is value in the wrestling with God’s Word, and that calls to unity have a tendency to supress that wrestling in favor of not rocking the boat.
So the issue of the true Body’s division into numerous sub-groups really doesn’t bother me all that much. It’s not important that my name is Michael, my brother’s name is Jonathan, and my other brother’s name is Joshua. It’s not divisive that we have different personalities, interests, and habits. Sometimes those differences will lead to knock-down-drag-out fights. That doesn’t divide the family. What matters is whether we are all Buggs, and whether we are all brothers.
What matters is not an outward facade of unity in the Body, or whether we sometimes argue, but whether we are really, truly and in our hearts brethren. And that status of brotherhood cannot be imposed by ecumenical councils from without, but can only be grown by the Spirit within.