If you perused my bio, you may have noticed that I am a Christian and I attend a Roman Catholic Church. Most people would say “I’m a Catholic” or “I’m a Methodist” or “I’m a (fill in the denomination)” and that is the point to my column this week. When we do that, we divide Christ. The second reading this week was 1 Corinthians 10-13, 17 and it is a timely and needed message.
Because I am a Catholic, I am anticipating that this column will get several responses along the lines of “Catholics aren’t real Christians!” or “Papist idiots” (that was a favorite insult from my column two weeks ago) or how we “worship statutes, saints and Mary”. I’m not making this into a “lets educate the masses on exactly what Catholicism entails.” This is about what the Scripture says about being divisive in faith. Hopefully those who would start a hate filled comment will stop and think, maybe even meditate on 1 Corinthians before continuing.
Sunday’s second reading is a letter from Paul to the faith community in Corinth. It is a favorite of mine to preach to the children to whom I minister each Sunday through our Children’s Liturgy of the Word program. In it, Paul received a report from “Chloe’s household” that told him of arguments among the faithful regarding who to follow. Paul wrote back to them:
I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers and sisters, some from Chloe’s household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I did not baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius, so no one can say that you were baptized in my name. For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel – not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
As Christians, we haven’t listened to Paul very well. We have squabbled with each other from the very beginning about who is right, who is wrong, what practices are ok, which aren’t. From the early Church to the first Great Schism, the split between the Byzantine Church and the Roman Church in 1054, to the split and double Pope issue in the 1300’s, to Martin Luther and his 95 theses posted October 31, 1517 that lead off the Reformation, to Henry the VIII and the Anglican split, all the way up to not even 20 years ago when Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants were blowing each other to bits over (among other things) which church was “right,” Christians have been fighting amongst themselves. If we take our own Scripture seriously, we need to STOP IT RIGHT NOW (said in the sternest of “mom” voices)!
I want every Christian reading this today to stop and honestly answer the following questions:
Do you believe in God?
Do you believe that Jesus is God’s son?
Do you believe that Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected to save us from sin and give us entree to Heaven through Himsel?
If you answered “yes” to each of those questions, you are a follower of Jesus Christ, and therefore a Christian. Now this is the very important part, so pay attention: IT DOESN’T MATTER WHICH CHURCH YOU WORSHIP IN EACH SUNDAY. IT MATTERS THAT YOU ANSWERED “YES” TO EACH OF THOSE QUESTIONS!!!!! As Paul said “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul?” NO! We each were baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, whether as an infant or an adult, and made a member of HIS family and community. JESUS’ community, not the Methodist or Catholic or Anglican or Pentecostal or Baptist or whatever denomination you happen to favor, JESUS’.
Kneeling down in a Catholic Church doesn’t make anyone any less a Christian than kneeling down in a Baptist Church, an Episcopalian Church or a field under a tree. If you are there as a believer in Christ, the doctrine, habits and practices are just the fluff that make it easier to become closer to God our Father.
Another tidbit for you to chew over: If you spend all your time with hatred in your heart for other denominations, how can you possibly have room in it for Christ?
Want another? Ok, think on this: If you spend all your time dissing other denominations, how can you possibly be fighting the evil that Satan brings to this world? Divide and conquer people and on that level he is winning. We have never been so divided as a community of faithful.
One more: Christ constantly took the Pharisees and Sadducees to task for following the Law with self-righteousness. I bet there will be a plethora of people who whip out their Bibles and start spouting off Scripture to justify their disdain or downright hatred of other denominations. Following the letter are you? Well, how about that love your neighbor as yourself thing, is your neighbor one of those “evil Catholics” or “crazy Pentecostals”? We are all disciples despite the practices, so you should really rethink that whole self-righteousness thing, you know, if you really care about being a true follower of an UNDIVIDED Christ.
I am a follower of Jesus Christ, first and foremost. I can answer a hearty “Oh, heck yeah!” to those three questions. Where I worship matters not. What matters is that I worship Jesus Christ. I hope you can say the same.
Image: Courtesy of: http://marketingusabile.blogspot.com/2007_07_01_archive.