Wednesday, March 11, 2009

If we are the body . . .

Hayley: You gonna eat more than just salad there?
Meghan: I would, but I'm off meat and chocolate for Lent.
Hayley: Wait, you practice Lent? I didn't know you were Catholic.
Meghan: I'm not. 
Hayley: . . .
Meghan: So you don't practice Lent? That's right, I forgot, you're Baptist.
Hayley: Oh snap! I guess I deserved that one.

Actual conversation from March 2008. To give a little context, I get called a Baptist a lot, and it irks me almost as much as when say "writing utensil" instead of "writing implement" - no one wants to be labeled or stuck with a misnomer. I've gone to an evangelical, Bible-preaching, non-denominational church since I was born and I didn't even understand the concept of denominations more recently. I'm still not sure I completely understand it. Just don't call me a Baptist unless you mean I believe in baptism. Just because I'm not Pentecostal doesn't mean I can't dance during worship. But I make the labeling mistake, too. Just because you're not Catholic doesn't mean you can't practice Lent.

Rant aside, I've been thinking about division in the church. The church. I've had limited exposure to other denominations, and still I've visited Catholic churches, Seventh Day Adventist church, Baptist and Southern Baptist churches, Pentecostal churches, and other nondenominational ones. And I've always felt uncomfortable, comparing things to back home, thinking, "My church does things the Bible way. This church isn't doing things my church's way. Therefore this church isn't doing things the Bible way." Simple mutual differences turn into attacks on truth. 

But in most instances that's just silly. 

You know what divides me from a Baptist? Almost nothing. The Jesus of my neighbor who's a born-again Catholic is the same Jesus who saved me. Ultimately, predestination, election, sacraments, speaking in tongues, egalitarianism, what's going to happen in the end times - it doesn't matter! These should not be points of contention with our brothers, the people who are supposed to be our very family in Christ. But that's how it works, right? Just like in our modern culture "family" is code for "people I hate to be around but I somehow owe something to" the church is adopting a similar definition of family in relation to the body of Christ. It's lame. Can we get over it already?

Last week I had the extreme privilege of going to a gathering of youth groups in Rhode Island, the brain child of a group of youth pastors called UNITED. It was awesome, our entire sanctuary was packed with Christian teens, eating & playing games, worshiping and praying, all together and it was completely off the hook!

Wherever we go, we are the body of Christ. Whether that's at my home church, or in the supermarket, or at classes, or during a tournament. I tend to compartmentalize my life, and I hate that. I forget that my school friends and my NCFCA friends are just as much a part of my family (the same family) as my church friends. I forget that Don Miller is my brother in Christ. I read stories of persecution and I forget that's my family being oppressed. It should be joy to meet a family member and pain to hear of a family member's suffering. What a wonderful gift that has been given to us - that where there is Christ there is family, and how could I even venture to forget or disregard such a gift?!

And how dare I judge a brother? If Christ is in him our differences in the gray areas don't matter. Why should a sacrifice a family member over doctrine that is between him and God? Unity is an over-worked, worn-out, tired word. But it's something the church is desperately lacking and even more desperately needs, and it needs to start with me. Romans 14:13 "Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother's way."


Art said...

Great post, Hayley! It reminds me of this quote from Frank Viola's book [i]Reimagining Church[/i], "the denominational system has fragmented the one body of Christ by religious partisanship. It has alienated the family of God into separate tribes. It has disintegrated the fabric of our spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood into an endless morass of religious parties."

You're right, the family of God seems to be taking on the characteristics of the dysfunctional family today. We've got to practice loving like true family! (You should really read Chapter 5 of [i]Reimagining Church.[/i]) =D

Art said...

Humph, too bad that the forum code doesn't work here.

Micah E. said...

Jesus paid to high a price
for us to pick and choose who should come
And if we are the body of Christ
If we are the body
Why is His love not showing them that there is a way

Jesus is the way.

Hayley said...

You totally have the most awesome book recommendations, Bekah-who-never-reads-anymore. :P

And so you /do/ listen to some Christian music, Micah? ; )

Micah E. said...

One can only take so much lyricless techno at once :)