“Holy Father, protect them by your name, which you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:11b)
Interesting bit about Jesus’ prayer – he prays that we may be one. He prays for the unity of the church. How many churches do you drive by in order to get to the church you attend? Does there seem to be unity? Not in the visible church. The Christian church seems to be so fragmented that the idea of unity is almost a joke. You’ve probably heard something like this before. I’ve tweaked it to a Lutheran perspective, but it could apply anywhere:
Two men are sitting next to each other on an airplane. The one looks to the other and says, “Are you a believer or an atheist?”
“Believer,” the other man replies. “Me too,” the first man says.
“Are you a Christian or a Jew?” “Christian.” “Me too.”
“Catholic or Protestant.” “Protestant.” “Me too.”
“Lutheran or Reformed.” “Lutheran.” “Me too.”
“ELCA, LCMS, WELS or ELS?” “WELS.” “Me too.”
“Confessional, moderate or liberal?” “Confessional.” Me too.”
“1941 hymnal or 1993 hymnal or 2021 hymnal?” “1993 hymnal. 2021 hymnal is OK.”
The first man jumps out of his seat. “1993? 2021? I hold to nothing but the 1941 hymnal! I’d rather burn in hell than sit next to this heretic scum!”
We worry about uniting with false teachers and teachings, and rightly so. But we also need to worry about creating needless divisions within the church that relate to points of view, opinions and non-essential matters. What’s essential? There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism, one God and Father of all. There is one Baptism and one Lord’s Supper and one gospel message of forgiveness through a crucified and risen Lord Jesus.
And, truth be told, despite all these outward divisions, the Church is one/united. Not the visible church; there will and must always be divisions due to reason/doctrine; but the true Church is united – the invisible Church, the Holy Christian church we confess in the Creed. And the Lord knows those who are his.
God keep you in his gracious care,
Pastor Stephen Luchterhand