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“…That they may be one…”  John 17:11

The cozy word togetherness has fallen into gross disrepair in our twenty-first century culture.  In its place, terms like generation gap, multi-cultural, segmentation and even tribalism have evolved.  We now celebrate our differences instead of emphasizing our commonality.  America, once considered the melting pot of nations, may now be more accurately described as a mosaic or a salad of ethnic groups. 

For these political realities to spread into the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, however, represents the greatest tragedy of this modern development.  One only has to recall the high priestly prayer of Jesus in John seventeen to know that this was not the vision of the Master.  “And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.”  John 17:11.  Oneness should not only characterize our theology; it should also depict the state of the church. 

Paul added to this basic understanding of the nature of the church when he spoke about our origins to the superstitious Athenians.  “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.”  Acts 17:26.  He later wrote to the Ephesians, “God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-6.  We have one Father who created us all and we are all together in our relationship to Christ.  Finally, this concept of oneness could not be spelled out more plainly than the admonition in 1 Corinthians 1:10.  “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all 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.” 

In light of this heavenly vision, the church must resist all efforts made to polarize its members into various camps, whether it was by design or unintentionally.  We must deliberately choose strategies that constantly integrate and blend people into worship, service and fellowship.  The “divide and conquer” mentality must give way to a “unite and serve” mode of thinking.  Music, for example, should not be considered the province of the young or the old.  It is a vehicle of worship to the King of Kings.  No one should be shut out of worship because he or she is either too old or too young to participate in a meaningful way.  Perhaps of the bright spots of our culture is the singing of the national anthem.  While it is often performed with an updated beat and sound, people of all ages can still sing along to its recognizable tune and words. 

Ethnicity remains a huge challenge for an evangelistic church.  Human nature gravitates towards those practices that feel comfortable, that give affirmation to a personal style and that conforms to “the way we’ve always done it.”  It is a mistake, however, to cast the church in the light of a particular culture.  The church is not to be a reflection of our comfort and convenience; it is to be an institution that embraces “whosoever will!”  For the first century Jews, the tradition of religion heavily involved meat and drink.  But, Paul’s words to the Romans emphatically rebuked those members who were using the church as an extension or expression of their religion and culture.  “For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” Romans 14:17.

This is God’s church, conceived, designed and built by Him and for Him.  “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18.  The church does not belong to the old.  It does not belong to the young.  It does not belong to the wealthy.  It does not belong to the poor.  It does not belong to a skin color, an ethnic group, a prominent family, a political faction, a church board, a cadre of influential persons, a clique of friends, a group of “cool” people or a radical core.  Its architecture reflects the mission of the Architect.  “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.” Matthew 18:11.  Let us not look for ways to divide us; let us continually seek for ways to unite us. 

“O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.”  Psalm 34:3.


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