How about you? Ever been a part of a “we love our own kind” church?
I have. In fact I’ve been part of churches and para-church groups that only loved “our kind.” One of them wanted me to know who was in God’s kingdom by a peculiar doctrinal position, and I almost bought into it. Sorry, by our own measure you probably wouldn’t have made it into the kingdom… our kingdom.
Why? Because you didn’t talk like us. Or walk like us.
Another group appealed to my selfish superiority and taught me to judge all other Christians as being on God’s ‘B’ team because we were obviously His ‘A’ team. Again, so sorry. Unless you were with us, you were a ‘B’. We were ‘making disciples’ while you and everybody else were lowly ‘pew-sitters.’ We were God’s Green Berets, His elite fighting force of men and women making a ‘real difference for Jesus Christ.’
Only we weren’t. A few years later it all dissipated. Our group was chaff which the Lord scattered to the winds of our pride.
So, maybe that’s where you can connect with this. Have you ever been a part of a church that taught you to obey Jesus’ new commandment while teaching you to disobey it at the same time?
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35)
Who exactly are the “one anothers” we are commanded to love? Just those in our church? Or those who hold to our church’s distinctives? Jesus laid down His life for more than just them, right, and doesn’t He command us to lay our life down for whom He loves? Or does He expect us to only love those who are Christian like us… those in our church, para-church group, communion, or denomination?
You almost certainly know better. His one anothers are everyone He saves to Himself through the ages, while your one anothers are all the saved ones in the region where you live. How can you know that your “one anothers” are all the saved where you live? Because Jesus promised that when we loved “one another” all men would know we are His disciples. Those all men are all the people where you live, both Christians and non-Christians who know this by seeing a visible and genuine Christ-like love in us, loving all who love Christ around us. If they see us loving only those in our church or denomination then they know we are no different than those the people they choose to love – and we prove to them we are not Jesus’ disciples.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Because we all are kept apart every Sunday morning we only learn to love those in our church with the love Jesus had for His own disciples, and we fail to love “one another” because instead of worshipping together and using our gifts for each other, we are separated. Our failure in being one church on Sunday morning where we live makes it impossible for us to love the all the Christians where we live.
In turn, that makes it impossible for all men where we live to know that we are Christ’s own disciples. The non-Christians around us read what they see. They see that we are the disciples of a Christian tradition, or worse, some persuasive human leader. They see we don’t love one another but instead are just like them. We only just love our own kind, which is all non-Christians ever do too.
As a result they do not believe we are Christ’s disciples because we are just like them. We only love those who look like us.
May I encourage you to read about Ephesians 4 and its great plan for one-body and one-church unity where you live? I call it The Ephesians Mandate.