The weekend has arrived. During Lent the weekend is split. Saturday is still part of Lent while Sunday is technically a day off. In earlier times it was the one day a week you didn’t have to fast or semi-fast, but today is Saturday, so it is still part of Lent.
Thanks to an article on Division in the Body of Christ by Jeremy Pierce at Parableman, I have been thinking about other divisions within the body of Christ that tend to fracture rather than unify us. Recently I have been looking at all of the various attempts in the different Christian communities and from multitudes of teachers who focus on leading different kinds of “centered” lives. Until I started looking I had no idea there were so many “centered” approaches to being Christian, including:
and the all encompassing “centered” life. Actually I should also include the negative since there are numerous resources on dealing with the self-centered, ego-centered, or earth-centered life.
Each of these is an attempt to encapsulate the importance a fundamental aspect of Christian living based on centering (using the specified approach as a basis for your thinking and commitment) on some aspect of God’s revelation about himself, contained either in what he has revealed to us or asked from us. None of them, in and of themselves, need to be a problem and in the right context can be helpful to our Christian growth in the same way that reading the book of James gives us insights not focused in the writings of John, Jude, Peter, or Paul. And James is a useful and important study within the context of our larger faith, but we would not build our whole lives and understanding of the faith around James’ writings alone.
However, just like the Corinthians began to divide themselves into factions:
Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” (1 Cor. 1:12)
we seem to be ever dividing ourselves into followers of different distinctives. While after the reformation, churches coalesced around specific distinctions, i.e. baptism, communion, predestination, now these distinctions seem to cross those former barriers and create subgroups that transcend the former boundaries. I first noticed this as the Charismatic movement did this as it spread across denominational boundaries. I now see the purpose-filled movement as doing something similar.
To be sure, there are distinctions within the body of Christ, as Paul reminds us:
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13)
And it is true that these distinctions have different focuses, different functions within the body. However, while having different gifts and functions, all these peoples’ lives are centered on the same thing, the same Lord, the same Gospel, and the same salvation.
So, I guess I want to say, Be careful. In studying any form of the centered life, remember that it is only one aspect, one facet of the multifaceted creation God is working within you to bring into being.
Instead, I want all of us to remember that a mature Christian is one who is agape-, Christ-, cross-, faith-, God-, Gospel-, prayer-, resurrection-, scripture-, Spirit-, and Word-centered all the time, and all at once. Beyond that, our lives should also include many other centered Christian distinctives not yet mentioned. What we really need to remember is that they are all necessary, but singular facets of our multifaceted Christian experience, aspects to be studied and made part of our larger Christian witness and existence, but they should never be the sole or primary focus of how we understand or express who we are in Christ.
Grace and peace to your day.
I can’t help but notice that the legitimate distinctions are distinctions within a local body, not distinctions between different local bodies. The original intent is for the variation to be played out within the body itself.
My congregation teaches certain things that set it out as distinct from other congregations that teach different views on those issues, but they’ve always made it clear that these are differences of opinion among believers. They’ve made a point to see their only distinctives as the few important things that all Christians should believe, i.e. the gospel itself. Once you major on the majors, it’s a lot easier not to see the other distinctives as real distinctives, even when other people make those distinctives their major issue. We’re not to divide against them by trying to make two wrongs a right. As a Calvinist, I can’t let Arminians who make Arminianism a major turn me into someone who makes Calvinism a major. It’s still a minor compared to the gospel itself, which only the most extreme Arminians truly deny.
So, Jeremy, I would say we do not disagree?