Wineskins Archive

December 21, 2013

AfterGlow: Paring Down the Up-Yonder Roll (Jan-Feb 1993)

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AfterGlow: Paring Down the Up-Yonder Roll

by Phillip Morrison
January – February, 1993

9In a newspaper column about churches, Ina Hughs observed, “In Christ there may be no East nor West, male nor female, Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free. But you and I sure do spend a lot of time and energy drawing lines of demarcation, mentally jotting down names and ranks of those who won’t be on the roll when it’s called up yonder …” Referring to the top religious stories of 1992, Hughs continued, “Most focused on issues that set believer against believer and chipped away at the idea that the Christian church’s ‘one foundation’ is someone whose life was spent letting people in rather than sending people away ….”

Some Christians would draw the circle of fellowship tighter and tighter until it becomes a noose choking the life out of Christ’s body on earth.

For some strange reason, the simple expression “unity in diversity” is rejected as unbiblical and heretical. In fact, it is completely biblical.

Jesus and his apostles were united, but they did not always agree. He taught servanthood, but they desired position and power (Luke 9:46-48). he understood the necessity of making the supreme sacrifice, but they didn’t want him to die (Matthew 16:21-23). He taught compassion, but the Sons of Thunder wanted to destroy unreceptive people (Luke 9:51-56).

The apostles and early missionaries didn’t always agree among themselves. Paul and Barnabas had different ideas about where to go and whom to take (Acts 15:36-41). Peter and James differed with certain Judean brothers about the residual requirements of Judaism in the Christian age (Acts 15:7-21).

It is our human nature that makes us want people to be like us. We expect our friends to understand God and the Bible as we do. “Of course we can all understand the Bible alike!” we exclaim, but fail to explain why we church members don’t all see it alike.

To call attention to the rules and regulations established by God is legitimate and essential. To establish our own standards of loyalty and attribute them to God is blasphemy.

Extreme efforts to define the essentials of acceptability result in sectarian creeds and ridiculous practices. Some would tell us which version of the Bible to use, which schools to attend, which journals to read, which preachers to hire, which hymn books and Sunday school literature to buy.

I recently visited a city which has some churches using individual communion cups, and a congregation which is “faithful” because it uses one cup, and a congregation which is even “more faithful” because it uses one cup with a handle – insisting that a container without a handle is a glass, not a cup. Does anyone seriously think that Christ died so his followers could make such foolish judgments?

“But I’m not judging; I’m just a fruit inspector!” someone claims. The difference may only be imaginary. I can inspect an apple as thoroughly as I wish, determining if it’s red or green, ripe or rotten, sweet or sour. But nothing I can decide or do changes the fact that God made it an apple. I may decide that some Christians are good or bad, faithful or unfaithful, orthodox or heretical, but I cant alter their relationship to God. If he has made people his children, they have become my brothers and sisters.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip Morrison

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