Unity by Threat

Recently a friend sent me links to presentations on the so-called emerging church. In many evangelical churches adherence to the Scriptures has given way to a call to unity which results in the melding with Roman Catholicism. Even Hindu practices have crept in through cleverly packaged New Age thinking and contemplative prayer.

But this watering down of our churches has come about in part from something you may not have thought of. At least I hadn’t.

In one of the presentations I listened to, the speaker made what I consider to be a profound point which should serve as an instructive warning to all Bible believing Christians. He noted that many well known evangelical leaders focus on the need to pull together because of perceived threats.

As I think back on the emergence of the so-called religious right in the 1980’s and what has transpired since, I see the brilliance of this man’s observation. How many times have we been told our culture is threatened? What about family values? The idea is that we must act together or lose our country.

How is this any diferent from the alleged threat of terrorism put forth by our government in recent years? The similarity is in the fact that the call to unity and action is based on perceived threats. This is how the world seeks to create and resolve problems. Unfortunately, we in the churches have adopted the same mindset.

Am I saying there are no threats? Not at all. In fact, the Bible tells us what they are. Here’s one example.

2 Timothy 3:1-5–
1. This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
2. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
3. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,
4. Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
5. Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Where in Paul’s writings are we told to turn things around? Where are we told to infiltrate the culture and make the world a better place?

I know, someone will in turn quote Ephesians 5:11, which says, And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. Taken in its proper context, this verse refers to rooting out the works of darkness in the church, among believers.

If you doubt this, look what Paul tells the Corinthians.

1 Corinthians 5:9-13–
9. I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:
10. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world.
11. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13. But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.

My simplified rendition: Let the world be the world. We are not of the world. Church, take care of yourself first.

But what about Jesus’ prayer for unity among believers? Let’s look at a portion of that prayer.

John 17, selected verses–
14. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
15. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
16. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
17. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth…
20. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
21. That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23. I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me…
26. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

Notice, Jesus is quite aware of the evil in this world. There’s no way to avoid it. But He doesn’t pray that His followers will fight and conquer evil. Instead, He asks the Father to protect them (us) from evil. And He seeks sanctification of His followers through His word of truth.

While Paul teaches about oneness of the Body of Christ in Ephesians 4, keep in mind that this is the ideal. It doesn’t always reflect reality. Otherwise, why would Paul need to warn against doing this or that?

The unity we have in Christ as believers is positional. We won’t achieve it in practicality here on Earth. At least not without compromise that ultimately leads to sin. And that’s what we see in evidence today.

What’s the solution? The New Testament epistles are filled with answers. Here are just a couple.

James 4, selected verses–
4. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God…
7. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
8. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
9. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
10. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

Revelation 3:1-6–
1. And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead.
2. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God.
3. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee.
4. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy.
5. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.
6. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.

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