Thursday, August 10, 2006

Christian Unity


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Romans 15:1-7 We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good to edification (build him up.) For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

The Scriptures Paul writes about are not our 'modern bible'. They are the Jewish texts, and the other letters being written at the time. I don't mean to shock anyone... but the bible was not 'mysteriously' written by unknown authors! The NT is filled mainly with letters to the early church. The books are named after the letter's recipient, in most cases. Even Timothy did not write the book of Timothy... it was a letter written TO Timothy by Paul.

All these books of the NT... letters to Romans, and Thessalonians... are nothing more than someone reaching out to edify, or build up, the writer's 'neighbor'. They were not written in a smug fashion, or as a means of insulting someone. They were written for the purpose of guidance for the early church leaders and teachers. They teach patience, and encourage the reader to strengthen his or her own spiritual walk with God. They are scripture in their own right. (Scripture doesn't just mean our own Holy Bible. Scripture can also be a body of writings that are considered sacred or authoritative... the Jewish Talmud is also Scripture under this definition.)

So, over 2000 years later, we are still addressing a problem that Paul pointed out in Romans... unity. Paul urges us to accept one another so that we can praise God in one accord. I'm guessing that feeling of 'I know more than you, get behind me Satan, you stupid liar' was around back in his day, too. Hundreds of letters were written by the early Apostles in an attempt to stop the church from straying too far from the message Jesus brought us. People began to interpret things on their own, without understanding the whole message behind it. A lot of poor attitude was going around, with people been abused for the benefit of the preachers.

Today, we can apply Paul's lesson to our lives. We can fall back on our bible, scriptures in letter form to the early church, for inspiration. It helps to read the whole book, instead of plucking out a single verse. The authors took great pains to say something, and then (much like this post) clarify what they are saying in later verses. The verses I have posted at the beginning of this email are a prolog toward Paul's message of spreading the word of God to the Gentiles. They are a stern reminder that we need to have unity, and that we need to reach out to our neighbors with support, instead of tearing them down for being different. Paul goes on to say that Jesus told us that our insults to others would be seen as insults to him. He ends this passage with the word 'accept'... reminding us that Jesus accepted us just as we were, and that we must do the same. He doesn't say Jesus accepted our sins and told us to continue. He doesn't say Jesus accepted us and then told us to go to hell. He says "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." Don't push your brethren aside just because you disagree on doctrine. Strengthen your brother or sister in Christ, with words to build up their faith in God, so that, together, you both may bring praise to God.