Recently, a minister from New York spoke to his congregation concerning the George Zimmerman trial and it's outcome. What he said made me think about the divisions of people in America. We divide ourselves by all sorts of titles and groupings, some harmless and some detrimental to the very fabric of our nation and even sadder, to the detriment of our calling to fulfill the Great Commission. Please take the time to view the video on the link below.
In the above sermon, the message is that the people in this particular congregation have identified themselves as a particular group and therefore their worldview is shaped, even dictated, by that identity. The minister's point is that before they can think clearly, they have to identify with Christ and see themselves as Christians before they see themselves as any other group. That message makes a great point and goes way beyond the context in which it is expressed.
As I considered the message and it's point that our self-identity affects our worldview it made me think of denominational division within the church. It made me think about how we are so busy identifying with our particular brand of Christianity that we often lose sight of the Christianity part and get hung up on the brand name. This is not a new problem, actually, the Apostle Paul had to address this very issue in the Corinthian church as some of them were hung up on certain Apostles rather than focusing on Christ.
1Corinthians 1:11- 17 For it has been reported to me by Chloe's people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers.
What I mean is that each one of you says, "I follow Paul," or "I follow Apollos," or "I follow Cephas," or "I follow Christ."
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius,
so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name.
(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
I find it remarkable how often people I meet, when asked about their belief system, will name a particular denomination rater than identifying with the name of Christ. " I'm Lutheran, (I follow Martin Luther), I'm Baptist (I follow the SBC), I'm Methodist (I follow Wesley), I'm Catholic (I follow the Pope) etc. Paul explained to the church in Corinth that it was Christ who died for them, and with Him they should identify and follow. These divisions can have some very dire consequences. Just a few hundred years ago, representatives of the Roman church, in the name of the Pope, persecuted and killed other Christian sects who would not bow to the Papacy. The following excerpt from Wikipedia shows just one example:
St. Bartholomew's Day massacre
In what became known as the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of 24 August – 3 October 1572, Catholics killed thousands of Huguenots in Paris. Similar massacres took place in other towns in the weeks following. The main provincial towns and cities experiencing the Massacre were Aix, Bordeaux, Bourges, Lyon, Meaux, Orleans, Rouen, Toulouse, and Troyes. Nearly 3,000 Protestants were slaughtered in Toulouse alone. The exact number of fatalities throughout the country is not known. On 23–24 August, between about 2,000 and 3,000 Protestants were killed in Paris and between 3,000 and 7,000 more in the French provinces. By 17 September, almost 25,000 Protestants had been massacred in Paris alone. Outside of Paris, the killings continued until 3 October. An amnesty granted in 1573 pardoned the perpetrators.
Not very long ago, Irish Catholics and Protestants were blowing each other up..in the name of ...What? Could either side in Ireland have possibly been followers of Christ in anything but name only? Could a person or group who is identified with and is committed to Christ kill in His name? Impossible, Jesus NEVER taught us to kill our enemies or those with whom we disagree. Jesus taught us to love one another, to bless those who persecute us, to repay evil with good. How different would the world look if the church got just that right?
Where does change begin? It begins with me, it begins with you, it begins as those who claim the blood of Christ actually identify with Him first and foremost. It begins when churches full of people begin to realize that their brand is not necessarily right about everything and we knock down the walls of denomination and division that keeps us from true fellowship and even more important, true evangelism. Discipleship unto Christ is the key, but first we must become true disciples ourselves and that starts when we see ourselves as belonging to Christ rather than a certain group.