Theology for the Long Haul

Monday, March 7, 2011

Beware of Your Search for Perfect Peace

This is one of the best articles I've read in a while. Anyone who has been in vocational ministry knows that church unity is a tricky matter. What questions should be asked? What compromises should be made (or not made)? How much diversity is good and healthy? These are the questions Schrock asks. Take a few minutes and read this'll be glad you did.

"When Jesus prayed for his disciples on the night before his crucifixion, he also prayed for every believer who would ever receive their message. Among his poignant requests, Jesus petitioned the Father for his followers to be one, just as the Son and his Father are one and have always been one (John 17:5, 24).

Yet when we look at the church today—local and universal—one wonders if the prayer got lost in transmission. Scripture prevents us from doubting the efficacy of his prayer (Heb 5:7; 7:24), but sometimes the unity for which he prayed and the disunity that we can see leave us perplexed. How should we understand the unity for which Christ prayed? A few qualifications and gospel-centered reflections may be helpful.

First, church unity does not mean the absence of strife. While Christ prayed for unity, he also prayed for the sanctification of his church (John 17:17). The need for sanctification assumes the presence of sin, and sin’s presence promises disunity. Jesus knew this and did not pray naively. He prayed knowingly for immature churches, persecuted churches, proud churches, churches filled with sinful people—churches like the ones Paul addressed and Jesus rebuked in Revelation 1-3. His prayer is what glues sinners together, and it is by design that conflicting sinners would dwell together. Why? Because Jesus uses the nagging sins of others to expose our own sins, creating opportunities to forbear, forgive, and fulfill Jesus greatest ecclesial instruction: Love one another (John 13:34-35). In this way, strife in the church that naturally leads to disunity has the possibility of refining the church when the underlying sin is confronted, confessed, and the gospel of grace is applied (Matt 18:21-35)."

Read the rest here...

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