“Oneness” and “unity” are such wonderful words, but without an all-inclusive list (see last week’s blog), how are we to attain such? Since there are honest believers that draw different conclusions, what is “unity” to look like? There was an illustration I heard early on in my preaching that I used to use to show our need to heed God’s Word.
Before I touch upon such, let’s be clear about one thing: Jesus Christ demands full allegiance. Scripture is replete with passages emphasizing our need to “do” (not just believe) what He has said. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Lk. 6:46) “Not every one that says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my father who is in heaven.” (Mt. 7:21) And then there’s Hebrews 5:9, “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.” Clearly, at the end of the day, God is to be obeyed – He is holy, our Master and our Lord. So back to the illustration. It is as follows:
A father once sent his son to the store to get some milk, eggs, and bread. He gave him the specifics, the money and sent him on his way. So the boy went to the store fully knowing the father’s expectations. Once there, however, he saw the candy, the chips and all of the amazing snacks. (You know how tempting those things can be.) So instead of getting “milk, eggs and bread,” he decided to get milk, eggs, bread and a candy bar OR he decided to replace the bread with the candy bar. Either way, upon his return, his father was greatly displeased because of the child’s lack of obedience.
It seems clear, doesn’t it? The father gave a command and the son didn’t comply – period! End of discussion. Once again, however, I was challenged to rethink some things. What if the son dropped the eggs and only showed up with milk and bread? Is that the same thing? What if on the way home he saw a lady who didn’t have any milk, eggs and bread, so he decided to give it all to her? Is that any different? What if, after having acquired the milk, eggs and bread someone took them from him on the way home? Or, what if, on the way home he got lost and never made it to the house with the milk, eggs and bread? In each case, the command of the father was not fully kept.
As I’m sure you see, the illustration, although well-intentioned, has a glaring problem. Its flaw is in its assumption that ALL violations of Divine will are willful and/or selfish. But they are not! As was noted last time, clearly there are people who deeply believe in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ who arrive at different studied conclusions. And who is to say, friend, that you or I are the ones that have it all right? This is not agnosticism (the belief that truth cannot be known), but rather an appreciation of our inability (being finite creatures) to exhaustively understand any topic.
To take it a step further, have you ever changed your view on something? Have you ever believed something to be permissible and then upon further study decided that it was not? Or perhaps you taught someone that something was wrong, only to later realize that you were mistaken. Assuming the new views that you have adopted are correct, was your salvation in jeopardy before you changed? Were you, when you were teaching these things, part of God’s army or Satans?
Thankfully, God looks at the intent of our heart. Consider the situation surrounding what is sometimes referred to as “Hezekiah’s Passover”:
For there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves. Therefore the Levites had to slaughter the Passover lamb for everyone who was not clean, to consecrate it to the LORD. For a majority of the people, many of them from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover otherwise than as prescribed. For Hezekiah had prayed for them, saying, “May the good LORD pardon everyone who sets his heart to seek God, the LORD, the God of his fathers, even though not according to the sanctuary’s rules of cleanness. And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people. (2 Chron. 30:17-20)
Note that there many among them who “had not consecrated themselves.” The point is that these folks had no authorization to eat the Passover. Yet, interestingly enough, they observed it. A closer look at the text reveals that Hezekiah prayed for them; he prayed for them to be healed, not because they had stubborn, rebellious hearts, but because their hearts were set “to seek God”? I believe this passage reveals a huge principle concerning the nature of our God. It reveals a beautiful dimension in God’s character. Our God, although holy, unapproachable and demanding of obedience, considers first of all the intent of one’s heart. Thus, He’s willing to embrace believers who, in their sincere quest to please Him, fail to understand and/or follow some of the rules.
Unity isn’t uniformity – we all have different lists. Unity isn’t based upon the perfection of life or doctrine – none of us can attain that. Unity is about oneness; oneness among seeking believers who have differences. Until this is appreciated we will, as a religious body and as individuals, continue to be judgmental, frustrated and divided. More to come.
You are loved!