For as long as I can remember I have always been a part of the Seventh-day Adventist church. Initially it was because I was born into an Adventist family. I didn’t really become an Adventist until I decided to get baptized. Baptism was my way of saying publicly that I accepted Jesus as my Lord and savior, and that I believe the Adventist church has a more accurate interpretation of scripture then the other Christian denominations.
For a few days now I’ve been attending a program at my church on the Holy Spirit. The objective, as I understand it, is to present a biblical perspective on the identity and the work of the Holy Spirit. There is special emphasis given to His dealings with us, individually, and the church community at large. I’ve come away from these meetings thinking of what our actions and words as members of the church really say about our thoughts on the nature and mission of the church. Though these meetings are the catalysts for this post, they are not the beginning of my reflections on the church.
My reflections came as a result of various sermons and statements made on the exaltation of one or a group over the other members of the faith community. Now there is truth in saying that God exalts persons over their enemies, whether they be in the church or not. However, I get the impression that most of these statements are driven more from feelings of hatred because of wrongs done. A spirit of division seems to anchor itself in us and as a result we become determine to prophesy of our ascension over the entire church even though God didn’t send us. In creole a major phrase that gives voice to these feelings is, “Bondye mete m ‘sou moun,” (translation, “God put me over people”).
Hatred for others is sanctified and deemed acceptable as long as we structure our statements to emphasize God’s uplifting of ourselves. To some extent it is not our fault because that’s what we were taught to understand. On the other hand we have a responsibility to seek after the realization of Jesus’ prayer for the church in John 17. Unity must be emphasized unless it is spiritually damaging to do so. Of course we will not admit that most of the time the motivation for which we say these things is because of hatred, but our refusal to find unifying means by which to resolve conflict is indicative of our beliefs. Actions speaks louder then words.
The criticism stated above reveals two things. Either we are blindsided by the frustration that conflicts bring and thus our minds narrow in to selfish resolutions, or we don’t know what the Bible says about the nature and mission of the church. A third possible option is that we have rejected what the Bible says. If this is the case we need to really consider why we have joined the church.
These cherished ideas are the progenitors of some of the clicks that are form within churches. Division in of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. In a community some will be closer to a set of people then others. This happens even in families. However this closeness should not be a dwelling place for anti-others sentiments. We should never allow our friendships to be a centre for character assassination. Division should serve as an enhancement to the community.
The church will fail in its mission if it doesn’t understand how it should exist. There will and must be a struggle in our attempts to align with the biblical model of what the church should be. In return the struggle will strengthen us as a community and reinforce our belief in the surety of the Word of God. For if the church can’t and doesn’t desire to unite as a body then it can’t exist as intended. The church will always exist, but if we wrestle against God we may not be a part of it.