April 15th, 2018


                 Way back in the 1st century, the apostle Paul lamented the divisions that were occurring within the Christian church.  He wrote to the church in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:13-13), “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.”  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?”  And now, 20 centuries later, it has only become worse. 

          We not only have Catholics and Protestants, but so many divisions among these two primary sects, that I could find no agreed upon number as to just how many there actually are.  And even among the various Protestant denominations there are divisions.  I remember when I was growing up, my father was a devoted member of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and firmly believed that not only was the Lutheran church the ONLY correct Christian church in existence, but that the Missouri Synod was the only correct branch of the Lutheran church.  Although after his passing I would often joke that he is still wandering around looking for the door to heaven marked “Missouri Synod Lutherans Only”, it really isn’t a laughing matter for Christians to be so adamant about their beliefs on issues that do not affect their salvation.  By this I mean that as long as a person has repented of their sins, acknowledges Jesus as the eternal Son of God, and has put their faith in His death and resurrection for their salvation, they are our brother or sister in Christ; and we are called to love and encourage them – not to view them with contempt, or viciously argue with, or debate them, over minor doctrinal issues. 

          So let’s take a brief look at some of those doctrinal issues…  Of course there are the sacraments.  The Catholic church has 7, the Protestant churches 2 (although they have similar rites, but they are not considered sacraments).  And within the two sacraments that we acknowledge, there are also differing beliefs.  The Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion or Eucharist, as various churches call it, do not all agree on the degree of presence of the actual body and blood of Christ contained within the bread and wine, or juice (again, which you use – wine or juice – and what type of bread – also differs).  Catholics believe in transubstantiation; and among Protestant denominations, some believe in the presence of Christ’s body and blood along with the physical presence of the bread and wine or juice.  Others believe only in symbolic representation of Jesus’ body and blood.  Catholics have First Communion for children and some Protestant churches allow children to participate prior to the rite of confirmation, and others do not.  Baptism also is subject to a wide range of beliefs, such as its necessity to salvation, the method used for baptism (sprinkling, pouring, or immersion) as well as the age of the person being baptized. 

          As if those aren’t enough issues to be divided over, further division among denominations, and smaller groups within denominations, occurs over such things as:

  • The role of men and women in the church and the home.  
  • What day we worship on (Seventh Day Adventists strictly adhere to the OT Law of worshipping on the Sabbath, which is Saturday).   
  • Whether or not there will be a 7-year tribulation at the end of the church age, followed by a 1000-year millennium in which Christ rules on earth, followed by a new heaven and earth.  And among those who are looking towards this future prophecy, they divided over an event called “The Rapture”, and whether or not it will occur prior to, during, or at the end of the tribulation period.
  • Dress code.  Some denominations have none, and others have very strict standards of dress, hair style, wearing of jewelry and use of make-up.
  • Which Bible translation is used.  There are some churches that refuse anything other than the 1611 King James Version, some that have a preference, but no strict rule, and still others that use a variety at the discretion of the pastor.
  • Alcohol use.  Some denominations call for strict abstinence, and others allow for social drinking provided it is not to the extent of drunkenness.
  • Divorce.  Some denominations do not allow for divorce except under extreme circumstances such as adultery, and even then do not allow for remarriage.  Others are more forgiving and accepting of divorce and remarriage.
  • Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  Some denominations, Pentecostals primarily, advocate speaking in tongues.   Some even question a believer’s faith if they do NOT speak in tongues.  Other denominations believe the gift of tongues ceased after the completion of the New Testament Scriptures.  Beliefs in regards to some of the other gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as prophecy and healing, also differ among denominations.
  • Holidays and seasons of the church year.  Some denominations observe traditional holidays, and other believe they are pagan in origin and do not acknowledge them.
  • Music and style of worship.  Traditional, contemporary, or a combination?  Follow the prescribed lectionary or not?  Incorporate modern technology or not?

          I could go on and on, but I am quite certain by now you get the point.  But what is the point I am making about the point?  It is simply this.  All of the issues I just mentioned are minor compared to what Christ has called us to do as Christians, and that is to work together to reach people with the Gospel of Christ – not to reach people to make them conform to our denominational house ‘rules’.  We are called to work together to share the love of God by helping those in need, and not to ask them first if they are Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or Baptist.  We simply are called to love one another and not to bicker or argue over minor issues.   For example, as the chaplain of Evenglow Lodge, which is a Methodist organization, I bring in men and women from different denominations to lead chapel services.  In addition to Methodist pastors and lay speakers, we have a minister from a Baptist church, a Lutheran church, and a Presbyterian church that regularly lead chapel.  And we have a Catholic priest, that is a resident of Evenglow Lodge, that holds Catholic mass weekly as well.

          On the other hand, there are some churches that call themselves Christian but go so far off track that the message they preach is NOT the gospel message of the Bible.  What I have just said does not apply to them, but rather the words of the apostle Paul in Galatians 1:8-9, “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”   This is where discernment is called for.  But remember Jesus said to leave the tares in the field with the wheat, and He would sort them out at the harvest.  So even if we recognize a tare, we are still called to love – not to burn their church down, not to throw the Bible at them, and not to put off an air of self-righteousness.  We should not allow any false beliefs to cause us to question the truth, nor should we adapt any questionable practices into our worship, but most of all we should not let, as the apostle Paul puts it, ‘those who are weak in the faith’ cause us to put aside love and replace it with argumentativeness and defensiveness.  Instead, as He wrote in Romans 14, we should live “a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” for if we “serve Christ with this attitude” we “will please God”“So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up”.  Amen.


                Jesus wants all of us,

               To get along with each other,

               And treat each person that we meet,

               Like a sister or a brother.

               Do not argue over little things,

               Or insist that you are right;

               Instead just love like Jesus does,

               And reflect His heavenly light.