A man was about to jump from the Golden Gate Bridge. Rushing to him, a Christian man tried to talk him out of his suicidal notion. “You know God loves you,” he said. Through tear brimmed eyes he responded, “You are a Christian?” The first man answered, “Yes.” “Are you Protestant or Catholic.” The first answered, “I’m Protestant.” “What denomination?” “Baptist,” he answered. “Northern, Southern, American, General, or Primitive Baptist?” he was asked. “I’m a Northern Baptist.” “I am too!” he exclaimed with excitement. “Are you Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?” “Northern Conservative Baptist.” He nodded approvingly. “Northern Conservative Fundamental Baptist or Northern Conservative Reformed Baptist?” “Northern Conservative Fundamental Baptist, Karl Ripley.” A smile welcomed the answer. “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Eastern region?” “Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region.” He sighed in relief. “Are you Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region council of 1897 or Northern Conservative Fundamentalist Baptist Great Lakes region council of 1912?” “1912, the first answered.” In sudden anger the second cried, “Die, heretic,” and pushed him off the bridge.
The lesson in this story is that unity is not the same as uniformity. Two policemen can wear the same uniform and work at the same precinct and still be at odds with each other. Two women can have a passion to rescue animals and volunteer at the same Humane Society while having a deep hatred for each other. Being a child of God expects something different. The people of God are known by the fact that they not only love God but they also love each other.
By Dr. Gayle Woods
E pluribus unum is illustrative of something which should be an accepted understanding and practice of all Christians. This Latin phrase means “Out of many, one.” These words were adopted by an Act of Congress in 1782 as the traditional motto for our country. They also appear on the Great Seal. The motto, however, was never codified by law. As a result, it lost its place of prestige in 1956 when the Congress passed an act (H. J. Resolution 396), adopting “In God We Trust” as the official motto.
About 400 years earlier, John Calvin, spoke of this same concept. He realized that one of the Devils foremost strategies was to sow disunity, division, and discontent. He knew that if the gospel was to prosper the brethren would have to put aside petty differences and work together. He wrote of this in a letter to a trusted colleague: “Among Christians there ought to be so great a dislike of schism, as that they may always avoid it so fast as lies in their power. That there ought to prevail among them such a reverence for the ministry of the word and the sacraments that wherever they perceive these things to be, there they must consider the church to exist…nor need it be of any hindrance that some points of doctrine are not quite so pure, seeing that there is scarcely any church which has not retained some remnants of former ignorance.” 1
Jesus said, “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold,” and yet we are so prone to limit the reach of grace to “us four and no more.” If our group of Christ-followers are the only ones who are going to heaven there will be plenty of elbow room within the celestial gates.
1Charles W. Colson, The Body, 1992, Word Publishing, p. 107-108.
By Dr. Gayle Woods
A New York family bought a ranch out west hoping to raise cattle. Later a friend asked what they named their ranch. The new rancher answered, “I wanted it to be the Bar-J. My wife wanted it to be the Suzy-Q, one son wanted the Flying-W, and the other the Lazy-Y. We finally decided on the Bar-J-Suzy-Q-Flying-W-Lazy-Y. We have only had one problem. None of our cattle survived the branding.”
Sometimes making everybody happy does not mean that you have unity. The Moravian brethren discovered this in the midst of internal conflict in 1747. Count Zinzendorf arranged to have a Conference so they could discuss the issues causing the controversy. When the representatives arrived they did not immediately begin to have debates as they had assumed. Instead, he instructed them to first spend time in prayer and the study of 1 John. By the end of the week they had realized again that one of the main lessons of the book was “love for all the brethren.” On Sunday they agreed they should observe the Lord’s Supper, remembering that being many they were one Body. Compromise or debate would have failed. Looking to God for guidance, they once again became the unified functioning body of Christ. They now experienced what they had forgotten they cherished – the blessing of unity.
Prayer with purpose, submission to God’s Word, and a humble spirit brought the blessing of unity to the Moravian brethren. It is time for God’s people to use this simple formula today.
By Dr. Gayle Woods