34,000 – Part 2

Congratulations to Troy Brock who submitted the correct answer to Friday’s question! But before we delve into the answer I want to explain the origin of Thursday’s quote.

The phrase “In essential doctrine there is unity; In non-essential doctrine there is liberty; In all things there is love,” is called the Fundamental Articles. It was written by a theologian named George Cassander in 1561. During this time, Europe was just coming out of decades, centuries really, of religious wars spurred by the Protestant Reformation. 

The continent had just witnessed a long violent clash between Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, and other smaller Christian sects. Armies of one Christian nation would war against the armies of another in an attempt to spread their version of God’s truth. Christians all over Europe imprisoned, tortured, and executed other Christians because they disagreed with their beliefs. 

The Fundamental Articles were an attempt to find common ground in order to quell this bloodshed. It basically states if you believe on Jesus as your savior, then I as a Christian should be able to not only accept you as a brother or sister in Him, but through love also accept all the differences we might have. 

This tracks perfectly with Jesus’ prayer over his disciples in John 17. In this prayer, he constantly alludes to the fact that he will soon be gone from his disciples. Then in verses 20-23 he prays for unity among them. Why? Because he knew tough times were ahead and they would need each other to get through them. 

Which brings me to the answer to Friday’s question. What is the significance of 34,000? Well, according to the 2001 World Christian Encyclopedia, this is the number of Christian denominations worldwide. No joke — 34,000! As Troy pointed out, most are small, maybe comprising a membership of just one church. But they are still there, separate from all other Christians.

To me, this number potentially represents at least 34,000 fault lines in the unity Christ prayed over us. It possibly represents 34,000 times we could no longer tolerate the liberty of having differences that don’t really matter. It probably even represents 34,000 instances where instead of loving our brother or sister, we cut them off as family. Please don’t get me wrong here — I’m not anti-denomination. I’m just anti-division.

Coming back to Brad’s series “The Ghost,” as Christians we have allowed differences over this topic (and others) to divide us far too long. But I am so thankful I belong to a church that revels in the unity of Jesus and his essential salvation. And no matter where I stand on other potentially sensitive issues, I know I have the liberty to express, explore, and exhibit those beliefs. Perhaps most of all I am thankful for the unconditional love and acceptance extended to me no matter what I believe.

As a fellowship of believers, let’s guard these traits of the Fundamental Articles jealously. Not only do they allow us to continue in fellowship, but they allow us to grow and bring Jesus to others as well. Let’s continue to be there for each other when times are tough instead of allowing our differences to become our tough times. After all, which do we really need more — another denomination or another brother or sister in Christ?

Live The Mission,

Greg

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