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Friday: Further Thought – Unity and Broken Relationships — 13 Comments

  1. Col 3:12-17 should be regarded as the blueprint of reconciliation.

    Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

    In our discussions on topics that fragment us, do we have reconciliation in mind, or are we focused on winning?

    By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples ...

    • Great passages Maurice.

      How would you feel about also including

      Rom 12:18 If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.

      as an introductory clause within the blueprint for reconciliation?

      • Phil, put that passage in it's context, and you'll see it is not about achieving unity in the church, but being as much at peace with even those who oppose the truth and persecute God's people.

        This same Paul also writes some very hard counsel for rejecting those who speak against the truth among us and to "rebuke sharply" those who are unsound in their faith, that they might become faithful. So we must put the idea of toleration in it's proper place, since Jesus never taught that the Church was ever to tolerate falsehood in its fellowship. It is such means of fragmenting that pastors are to work to eliminate through faithful labor with those who are in error, but ultimately to remove them from the church if they persist in opposing the doctrine of Christ. It is the duty of the church to remain pure in it's doctrine and practice, if we would be found obedient to our Living Head.

        "They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, 'Peace, peace,' But there is no peace." Jer 8:11

        • Why did I propose inclusion of the verse? Because it is a qualifier that we can only do as much as lies within our capacity to contribute to an outcome of resolution.

          This verse affirms that there are times where factors outside of our ‘control’ are present that can inhibit reconciliation.

          With regard to context, Paul is initially speaking in Rom 12 about principles that should characterise interactions between believers and then subsequently broadens out to inclusion of principles that are applicable to interactions with all people - believers and non-believers alike. Verse 18 lies within this latter section and is therefore applicable to interactions with believers as well as interactions with non-believers. Consequently, it is contextually valid for this principle to be incorporated within a blueprint for principles regarding reconciliation between believers.

          • In all of this, Paul is not endorsing the "agree to disagree" agenda many have brought to the forefront in our churches today. Doesn't Paul also point to "One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism", and admonish the church to "speak the same things, that there be no divisions among you"? How does this fit within your idea for accepting diversity of doctrine/practice.(this conclusion reached easily by your accumulated comments in general. Correct me if I'm wrong.)

            Context is our guide if we apply it faithfully.

          • "How does this fit within your idea for accepting diversity of doctrine/practice".

            There is no short answer to this question - but 2 things I can say briefly are that:

            1) God is amazing at being able to (a) hold up the ideal as the direction to inspire and guide us to move towards whilst (b) simultaneously understanding our present limitations at that point in time in order to (c) progressively and systematically grow us from where we currently are to where we can ultimately be. This would be the PROGRESSIVE PROCESS that you refer to via the 'great and precious promises' of how we can be re-created into the 'Divine image'. Paul similarly demonstrates this process in Phil 3:12-15.

            2) Diversity of doctrine and practice lies along a spectrum. Within a certain range of this spectrum, this diversity is not INHERENTLY destructive. Outside of that range is INHERENTLY destructive. This is further compounded via consideration of individual compared with community impact. There are some things that are individually inherently destructive, but not inherently destructive for the community. Then there are other things that are inherently destructive for the individual and for the community.

            So, these are principles I would follow (though there may be an exception according to specific circumstances):

            In instances where something is demonstrated to be inherently destructive for the community, I would advocate that the matter unfortunately would need to be dealt with - a stand would need to be taken by the community.

            Where something is inherently destructive for an individual but not for the community, I would advocate for how Jesus allowed Judas to remain associated until Judas chosen end.

            Ideals are meant to be held up inspirationally - to DRAW people, not coerce them (Jn 12:32). In order to do this, people need to be met where they are and allowed and supported in a constructive and healthy growth process that sees them progressively move further towards the ideal.

            We were each created with individuality (EGW, Education pg 17.2). And being within a sin-infected world further adds to the differences that will exist between any of us at a given point in time. So, how do we co-exist as harmoniously as possible while we are each deferentially progressing towards God's ideal/s for us?

            I would suggest that the 'graying and numerically shrinking' population of churches is indication that perhaps there is need to seriously revisit how we respond to diversity of doctrine and practice that is not INHERENTLY destructive to community - because the way it has been responded to thus far evidences that it has predominantly been INHERENTLY destructive.

    • "do we have reconciliation in mind, or are we focused on winning?"

      Every individual will interpret the motives of another as they wish, but reconciliation is not found in multiple ideas of what truth is. It can only be based on Truth according to the word and will of God. Cain misunderstood Abel's seeking to reconcile his erring brother.

      Love does not allow a brother to continue in opposing the will of God. Notice where Paul wrote: "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...". This is the foundation of unity.

      Unity is not found in overlooking or "accepting" falsehood or any deviation from God's will. It cannot support any various interpretations of any truth which oppose one another. We have one Gospel, not a variety to pick and choose according to our personal preference. If Jesus is not Lord in everything, we have no oneness with Him, or with those who are one with Him.

      Too many are calling for a unity based on "agreeing to disagree". God is not behind such 'unity'. It is our adversary who seeks to divide and conquer. We are fragmented, and unity will never be achieved while remaining fragmented or tolerating any fragmentation among us.

  2. Last Sunday, a lady in our community (I'm working in China and we have a group that meets each Sunday to worship together) asked what I'd been studying about recently. They're aware I'm an Adventist (none of them are). I told her how this quarter was going to be all about unity and reconciliation within our church (hopefully). So she asked me for an example of any issue that was causing divides. I told her about the first thing that popped up in my mind.. that of the ordination of women and allowing them to lead in the church proceedings.

    Her reply was, "That was the issue I had too and also in our church ... Then the elders of our church requested the women who were in favor of ordination and their families to pray and re-examine their beliefs... Were they pushing for this, as a right to glorify God or themselves? That was the day I realized that in wanting to prove myself as an equal or better than the men, I was in my own way promoting my selfish desire!"

    Her answer both shocked me by its rationality and over-awed me by its simplicity!

    • Yes, Jane, any time we push for our "rights," we can know that we are surely on the wrong path. It's too bad that there are people who publish in favor of the equal treatment of female pastors on that basis. Perhaps that is why we are still mired in disagreement.

      However, I do know that many understand the issue to be very much related to our picture of God - that is, what kind of God we serve. Do we serve a God of arbitrary rules who favors one gender over another? Or do we serve a God of self-renouncing love - one who always treats us with compassion and respect and who knows our situation and relates to us accordingly. He wants nothing more than for us to let Him reproduce His character of love in us and to demonstrate to the world what He is like. Those who recognize what we say about God with our rules understand that the passages some interpret as iron-clad rules that demand the subjugation of women to men are not interpreted as God intended. Rather, God speaks to us in our language and asks us to act in a way that will not bring reproach on His name in whatever culture we find ourselves. That explains the apparently contradictory statements in the writings of Paul who had female co-workers whom he treated as equals, while writing in another place that women should keep silent in church. (Unfortunately, too many of tend to read the Bible selectively to favor our point of view.)

      As for the ordination of women? I suspect that pushing for that is not a good idea. It would be much better to do away with the current practice of ordination altogether, since things have only gotten worse since Ellen White wrote that people attach inordinate significance to the practice. O
      I believe that our current practice of commissioning is much more similar to New Testament practices.

  3. In the quote from Selected Messages, it says; “when oneness exists”. We are far from this today over a variety of issues. Oneness will never come while differences of practice, and how to interpret the word of God persist among us. Oneness is in Christ, and He cannot be divided against Himself in any regard or on any matter that He has declared as Truth. Diversity of temperament, experience, abilities and gifts are not the same as diversity of doctrine and practice. As Paul wrote; God's people must “speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you: but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment”.

    We will only find this oneness when each finds it personally with Jesus, according to the will of God and obedience of Jesus.

    SSQ questions:
    1. As I look at Paul's counsel, the key factor would be; “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom”. From this indwelling of Truth all other qualities will develop and mature fully, for Jesus taught that we are sanctified by the Truth, as given in God's Word, which Jesus taught man must live by.

    2. Only by reflecting Jesus fully, will there be unity. Jesus lived in perfect conformity to the will of His Father, which is why Paul counsels the Ephesians to “be not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord Is”. As with Jesus while on earth, the will of God must be our will, and the basis of all we believe and practice. The unity Jesus prayed for will be the sure result.

    3. If I am not one with Jesus through repentance and faith, how can I find unity with “all them which are sanctified” in Him?

  4. Is unity, thinking for ones self? An opinion can be formed by using someone else's scenario, which is barrowed from a number of supposed authentic references. In the Bible both old and new testaments, situations of disunity are a matter of record. So the beat goes on! The subject of unity may not top the list of moral issues of concern, but are somewhat important.


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