Christian Unity in a World of Division - Guest Post by Christina Channell

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I have been serving the Lord for almost ten wonderful, faith-filled years, and oh what a journey it has been. Since the blessed night when I received the gift of faith as a convicted sixteen year-old, I have called myself many things.

I have called myself an Evangelical, passionate about bringing the gospel to my fellow high school students. I have called myself a non-denominational Christian with a love for scripture. I have called myself a Reformed Protestant with a zeal for history and a motivation for truth. Today I call myself a Catholic Christian, a joyful convert and still very much a lover of evangelization, the scriptures, history, and truth. All denominational divisions aside, however, one thing has remained the same: I have loved Christ since the very beginning.

When I talk to other Christians about my experiences in these different churches over the years, occasionally someone asks if I am some kind of denominational "elitist." They become defensive almost immediately and seem to expect a tirade from me about why their church is wrong, wrong, wrong and mine is "perfect." I try to ease their suspicions as quickly as possible. Like most Christians, I am a part of my congregation for reasons I can articulate, and I'm always happy to have that conversation with anyone. But to be perfectly clear, I consider all the Christians with which I have fellowshiped to be...Christians! Indeed, the Catholic Church officially teaches that our baptized, Protestant brethren are our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Most often, I point out my long denominational history as a means to identify with other Christians - not separate myself from them.

Unity is important. Our Lord thought so too when He prayed for the Church in John 17:20-21, "that they may all be one." I do believe the Lord wills that Christians be in harmony with one another, doctrinally speaking. The body of Christ has some strides to make in this department. It saddens me greatly to see some Christians declaring from their own denominational corner that they alone are saved. I've known some Christians to outright profess that specific denominations of Christians are going to hell and that their own church is "the remnant." Come to think of it, perhaps this helps explain the defensive nature I occasionally encounter from other believers. They look at me and wonder if I too will shun them into damnation for some blown-out-of-proportion doctrinal division. This is not how we are supposed to be. We must strive for unity and we must be charitable in our differences.

To be sure, many exegetical differences exist between Protestant and Catholic Christians. Having been both, I can attest to this fact as well as anyone. While I truly do enjoy discussing these differences with like-minded and different-minded friends, I really relish an opportunity for true unity between us all. Yes, those instances of unity are all around us, and to the glory of God we can be one in many ways today.

A most beautiful example of Christian oneness took place earlier this month in the rural town of DeKalb, Illinois, as hundreds of Christians from all denominational backgrounds came together to support a pro-life pregnancy clinic. The event was a banquet fundraiser for the clinic and included dinner, entertainment, and an investment opportunity to continue the life-saving work of the ministry. The money pledged that night will help pay for another year of free services to women like pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, STD testing, parenting education, and material assistance. The speaker for the evening, a Christian comedian, ended his talk on a serious note: "We are being Jesus through this ministry. This is how we are the Church." Looking around the room, you could see unity. Even at our own table, a local priest sat between a Protestant couple and several married Catholics. We bowed our heads in prayer for the common goals of a successful ministry and ultimately, an end to abortion in our community. Despite our differences, God was pleased to see our unity. What a beautiful moment of faith.

In my few years of pro-life ministry, I've seen this a lot. I've participated alongside Protestants and Catholics in fundraising, pro-life awareness events, and pregnancy center ministry. I've seen Catholic priests and Protestant pastors enjoy friendly conversation about pro-life campus ministry. I've seen Christians of all denominations collaborate to make a difference together, a difference far more significant than any one group could accomplish alone. Though we all parted ways on Sunday morning, we were the hands and feet of Christ to the world. We're not quite "one" doctrinally, but we get it right some of the time.

Not only can Protestants and Catholics work together, but we can learn from one another too. The Catholic Church has a long history of unwavering pro-life values from birth until natural death. I love that our life values are cited in our catechism, irrefutably printed in black and white for anyone to see. More Protestant churches would do well to make their teaching so clear and explicit, perhaps including it in a statement of faith or formal confession. Many Protestants make praiseworthy pro-life efforts as well. In a world where not all Protestants are necessarily pro-life to begin with, the ones which preach life ethics and support anti-abortion causes make bold statements and risk ridicule, loss of respect by more "progressive" Christians, and even a decline in membership. Within Catholicism, we seem to have trouble conveying our pro-life teachings to real-life application. (The recent 2012 presidential election results come to mind, with a majority of Catholics voting in favor of a staunchly pro-abortion President.) Though we teach truth, about half of us don't allow the truth to shape our lives in a meaningful way. We can benefit from our pro-life brethren in many Protestant churches as they set a good example of consistent faith and living.

I have been many "types" of Christian, and I assume that most who are reading this identify with a "type" as well, be it a specific expression of Christianity or even a shared disgust at division (which is of itself, a "type"). Be assured that if you place your hope in Christ as the Son of God, the way of our salvation, then we can accomplish much together. Consider the greatest commandment: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind (Matthew 22:37)." Few of us would deny that this our goal, regardless of our denominational identity. Consider also a second commandment, which Christ says is like the first: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:39)." Unquestionably, this commandment is one we must all take seriously as well and one that should unite us as a body of believers. Let us be loving and respectful in our differences and of one heart and mind in our shared Christian values. As we draw closer to God, let us draw closer to one another and truly be "one" as Christ commands.


Christina lives in Illinois with her husband and two daughters (and has another on the way). In her spare time she enjoys homemaking, reading blogs, and gardening. Christina blogs at The Recovered Catholic and can be contacted at therecoveredcatholic@gmail.com.  

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From Kirra:  To read a response from a reader, please go to Reformed Virginian.




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14 Responses to Christian Unity in a World of Division - Guest Post by Christina Channell

  1. Firstly let me says I too am prolife and have a healthy fear of our Father, that being said I strongly disagree with you saying that we can get together with the catholic church in unity. You are fooling yourself if you think that is what the messiah wanted.A "church" that prays to patron saints,mary and others and are filled with so many statues of thier idols will not and will never have any part of the true church.The messiah came and set up one set of believers and we "men" have changed up his original and only "church".Admittedly we christians do not have it all together but I still maintain that if we seek Him and not buy into this religiosity that is being spread around but false pastors, "profits",elders and even priests we willtruly see unity when we put aside what we have been force fed and embrace the Father for who he is.May our lord open your eyes and people like you to the subtle deception satan has brought forth.

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  2. Oh Anonymous, your comment rings familiar to me. Just a few years ago, I too would have wielded such an argument at a Catholic myself. You sound quite confused about what Catholics believe, so I will excuse your wild accusations. If ever you'd like to discuss your grievances with the Catholic Church, I'd be very happy to exchange emails (therecoveredcatholic@gmail.com). You're also welcome to read my blog, recoveredcatholic.com (as this blog post is not the place to do so).

    I do hope you will rethink your statement that Catholics and Protestants cannot work together in unity. As you read in this post, it certainly happens all the time.

    Blessings,
    Christina

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  3. Christina, wonderful thoughts as usual. I just finished reading "A Life with Karol: My Forty-Year Friendship with the Man Who Became Pope," a book about Blessed Pope John Paul II. One of the biggest impressions it left on me was how zealously he worked for unity and greater dialogue with ALL people of faith - whether they were Orthodox, Lutheran, Jewish, Muslim, etc. Finding peace and common ground with others does not have to mean compromise and/or loss of our own deep convictions, and he really understood that. It was because of him that the Church was able to mend many fences and achieve reforms for the good of man in many parts of the world that aren't necessarily Catholic or even Protestant.

    Jesus did not hesitate to tell us that by virtue of proclaiming him as the Son of God we would face severe resistance, even among our own family members, but let us remember that he also said so famously on his Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God." The Scriptures tell us clearly to live at peace with one another "as far as it depends on you." We are not to be contentious, stirring up division wherever we can and then claiming martyrdom when the response is negative. As you said, we must seek unity with one another where we can! Sometimes, with various people, this will not be possible. But it shouldn't be for our lack of trying or our uncharitable nature. No, we may not be able to agree on some very important issues...but where CAN we agree so that we can effect positive change in the world? Pro-life work is such a great example of an opportunity for unity and I love that you brought that up.

    Anyhow, again, great post. :)

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    1. Thanks, Erika! The book you mentioned has been on my reading list for a while now. It sounds very inspiring.

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