To Bring Unity to All Things

"What is your church's stance on...public transit."

This is an actual question Pastor Aaron was asked once.  Does it seem a bit out of place?  it should.

The reason is that what the pastors or members of a church think about public transit is not a central tenet of our faith and practice as followers of Jesus.  In short, it doesn't matter.  

So, that's an obvious one.  But there are many other questions of position one could ask a church that are more tenuous, and more potentially divisive:
- Do you sprinkle or immerse in baptism?
- Do you require members to tithe, that is, give a full 10% of their income to the church?
- Do you use an organ or guitar and drums in your worship?
- Do you allow women to teach and preach God's Word?

And so forth.  

The fact is that since its inception, the Body of Christ, "the Church," has suffered from division.  And this is the central reason Paul wrote this letter we call "Ephesians."  In this week's short passage, he makes his point clear.

As the Church has evolved over time, there have emerged a handful of central tenets we consider non-negotiable in our faith and practice.  And the one that God intended to unify all of us is our common faith in the total Lordship of Jesus Christ.  Everything else comes next.  

But for many traditions, everything they believe to be true is a non-negotiable.  This kind of theology is called a "bounded set."  So, the belief that Jesus was the incarnation of the Son of God is on equal ground with the belief about what kind of bread to use in Communion, or how to dress for worship.  

Alternatively, there is another model for practicing what we believe, called a "centered set."  In this model, the handful of non-negotiable doctrines are in the center.  They're important enough that we wouldn't elect an elder, deacon, or pastor who couldn't adhere to all ten of them.  But other questions, as important as they are to consider, are not central.  Then questions of church governance, the roles of women and men, worship style, etc. can be approached from various angles and lead to different conclusions...without fracturing the fellowship of the church.  

 Moreover, for membership in a church of our tradition, only one belief needs to be in place, not all ten -- the belief that you need to be saved from your sin, and your Lord and Savior is Jesus Christ.  Everything after that is part of the journey.  

Paul introduces here, and will continue to develop throughout this letter, the essential fact that the church that does not find its unity in Jesus Christ, but rather tries to create it on any other basis, will experience division and all the fallout division brings.

1) Do you think a common faith in Jesus Christ is enough to unify a church?  What must the people of that church do to allow Jesus to be their unifier?
2) Have you ever experienced division in a church congregation?  What was that like?
3) If you had to create a "centered set" of non-negotiable about your Christian faith, what would you include, and why?  

Grace and peace!

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