One Lord, one body of believers

Published 10:16 pm Friday, May 6, 2016

By Rev. Chris Surber

I’ve always enjoyed the story about the Baptist man who dies and goes to heaven. While he’s receiving his introductory guided tour St. Peter says, “Now in that room are the Christian Church people, over here are the Episcopalians, and in that room are the Baptists, but you’ve got to be really quiet, because they think they’re the only ones here!”

While I’ve heard this wisecrack usually directed at Baptists, it could easily be directed at several segments of Christ’s Body. It is a natural human tendency to believe the finer details of our beliefs are the only right beliefs.

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We like to be right, and what’s more, we seem to enjoy other people being wrong.

Jesus did make some pretty exclusive claims. John 14:6 says, “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”

That’s really exclusive. Jesus is, in effect, saying that He is the only door through which imperfect men may find a perfect path to God. In fact, in another instance in the gospels Jesus actually refers to Himself as the door. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.” (John 10:9 ESV)

Here’s the thing, Jesus didn’t say anything about being Baptist, Methodist, Congregational or any other subtle distinction as to doctrine or historical identity. Yet, so many Christians in our community live as though He did.

It seems like a lot of Christians in our community play more the part of doctrinal police and denominational “company man” than they do bridge-building ambassador of the Body of Christ.

Recently I read of Coptic Christians suffering persecution and beheading in Libya. In Haiti, Christians suffer immense poverty and starvation. Across the Sudan, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and other parts of Africa, Christians of every imaginable denominational persuasion suffer under oppressive political regimes, with poverty, and with Islamic oppression.

When one part of the body suffers, the whole body suffers. We need a bigger view of the Body of Christ. We need to work together. We need to pray together. We need to love one another beyond words.

In his 1915 book “Undenominational Christianity,” J.N. Armstrong wrote, “The first Christians were nothing but Christians, religiously speaking. They belonged to no denomination, but were simply undenominational Christians and belonged only to the church of God, the saved. They belonged to this people, because God had added them to His church.”

I used to call myself a nondenominational guy. More and more I’m becoming an undenominational guy, choosing to simply identify as a follower of Jesus in relationship with a ton of other followers of Jesus who happen to represent many distinct denominations.

“There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” (Ephesians 4:4-5 ESV)

Chris Surber is the pastor at Liberty Spring Christian Church in Suffolk. Email him at Thurman Hayes’ column will return soon.