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One of the rarest virtues of our day is humility. In a digital era where information is readily available at our fingertips, we have weaned ourselves off of the need to depend on others. In a world where most men are islands unto themselves, how does the Bible address unity within the body of Christ?

The Traditions Of Men

“This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Matthew 15:8-9).

In Matthew 15, much like they often do, the Pharisees and Scribes confront Jesus in an attempt to discredit him. The Pharisees and Scribes complain to Jesus that his disciples are not keeping a tradition of the elders. Unfortunately for them, Jesus doesn’t seem concerned with the traditions of the elders. Instead, Jesus rebukes the Pharisees and Scribes, asking why they break God’s commandments for the sake of upholding their traditions.

Throughout the Bible, we learn the commandments of God bring life and refresh our souls. The traditions of men tend to have the opposite effect as they often place burdens on people that are not only unbearable but also undermine the commandments of God. In verses 8-9, Jesus quotes the book of Isaiah, making the important point that we worship God in vain when we obey the commandments of men rather than the commandments of God.

Modern Day Christianity

When I converted to Christianity from atheism, I had no biblical framework for my faith. Unlike many Christians who learned about the Bible through their parents or pastor, I approached Christianity with a blank slate. I had the opportunity to read the Bible with unadulterated eyes, not having previously heard anyone’s interpretation of it. As a result, I was somewhat grateful that I had not been raised in the Church.

Very early on in my walk, I recognized significant differences between the teachings of Jesus and the teachings of my pastor. Just as important, I had also identified differences between the culture of the early church and the culture of my local church. As Jesus taught in the Scripture above, I quickly came to the realization that the personal beliefs of individuals can easily overshadow God’s standards for us.

Although they may not be called Pharisees or Scribes today, it isn’t hard to find individuals who add to the word of God and condemn those who fall short of their personal standards. Such behavior creates a type of Christianity that tends to the desires of man rather than the will of God.

Spiritual Pride

In the midst of the clear hypocrisy being practiced in my local church, I developed an exclusionary and elitist mindset when it came to my understanding of Christianity.

My rationale for doing so was overly simplistic: people are imperfect and therefore they are undependable, but God’s word is perfect, therefore, I can depend on it. I recall countless times when fellow Christians asked me which sermons and books I am learning from and I ignorantly and proudly responded, “None!” When asked, I would explain that I only read the Bible because I don’t want to waste my free time learning from other people; I would rather learn directly from God.

Outside of shutting my ears to the voice of other Christians, I also became judgmental when I entered into fellowship with them. When I spent time with Charismatic Christians, I often looked down on them for their overwhelming desire to experience the presence of God, yet their lack of desire for the word of God.

On the other hand, when I spent time with Reformed Christians, I often looked down on them for their overwhelming desire for the word of God, yet their lack of desire for experiencing the presence of God. Although I didn’t think of myself as perfect, there was definitely a log in my eye that I didn’t care to be aware of.

It’s Satan’s plan to make Christians think they are self-sufficient and have no need for their brothers and sisters in Christ.

One Body, Many Parts

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable (1 Corinthians 12:18-22).

The only perfect man who ever lived was Jesus. An imperfect person, unfortunately, cannot perfectly hear from God. God isn’t only interested in speaking to you alone, he’s also interested in speaking to other Christians. What he teaches them can add great value to your life. You should, therefore, be interested in hearing what they have to say. The opposite is also true: what God teaches you can add great value to other Christians.

The greatest factor which turned me away from my spiritual pride was my sin. In my striving to love God, and in the face of my great inconsistency, it was clear to me that I was also extremely flawed. During moments of intense spiritual sorrow, it was my wife who lovingly encouraged me. During moments of great hopelessness, it was the words of other Christians who lit a light in the darkest of places.

As God would have it, there were times in my life when I could not see his truth for myself and when my heart could not comprehend his goodness towards me. It took the encouragement of others to lift me out of my great sorrow. The popular Christian saying rings true: “God uses crooked sticks to make straight lines.”

The Call To Community

While it’s true that the Holy Spirit teaches us (John 14:26), it’s also true that God has established teachers within his Church (Eph. 4:11-13). Although these teachers are imperfect, God, who is perfect, has given them the authority to teach you. When believers neglect Christian community, they ultimately hinder their spiritual growth. This is a serious issue, especially in a technological era where we are prone to isolate ourselves because we can live digital lives through social media.

Community is perhaps one of the most undervalued necessities within Christianity.  In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:20-21). From this scripture, we can ascertain some significant truths:

  1. Jesus desires that we would be united as one. He desires this so much that he petitions the Father just a short while before his crucifixion.
  2. The type of unity that Jesus desires for us is the type of unity he and his Father share with one another. How close are you with the Christians around you? I can almost guarantee that you’ve fallen short of Jesus’ standard for unity.
  3. When we are united, the world will believe that God the Father sent Jesus Christ. While the great commission is important, if the church is full of strife and division, unbelievers will ultimately not believe that Jesus was sent by God.

God yearns for us to have fellowship with one another, and to do so, we must address our spiritual pride. Although the church is filled with imperfect and sinful Christians, it’s people such as these that God uses to communicate his love and grace to us.

Not only do you need God, but you also need his Church. I encourage you to be quick to humble yourself, be open to learning, and be involved in community.  I pray God would give us great grace in this endeavor.

May our hearts burn with the knowledge of Christ!

 

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