Many times ecumenical movements are perceived to be the result of the spirit of unity rather than unity of the Spirit. This causes a great concern for some evangelicals. Quite frankly, there are many evangelicals that cannot get beyond this idea and, will not strive to unite with other believers that they perceive to be of a different doctrinal stance. As a result there are thousands and thousands of denominations and divisions. Wikipedia reports that there are 38,000 various denominations.
Yet, the apostle Paul wrote the following to the church in Ephesus. Eph 4:4-6 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call-- (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Okay.... is it possible that we can find the way to exercise the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace? Is it possible to find a way that believers can be more inclusive, especially of each other? All of the divisions center on our reading and understanding of scripture. Those who use what Brian McLaren calls a constitutional reading of scripture, use this to take their various doctrinal stances that they then divide on.
Let’s just look at Ephesians 4:1-4: “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Walking worthy of the calling should mean walking in love.
What would we expect the Spirit to unify believers on? First of all, it should be evident that the Spirit would unite believers in the fruit of the Spirit. So let’s look at the fruit of the Spirit in bullet form:
- Love (agape) selfless love
- Self Control
I’m sorry, I do not see doctrine, scripture interpretation... etc. Think about the definition of each word in the list above, realizing that they all together make up agape and, then ask yourself, about the fruit of those who divide, judge, accuse, condemn and demand doctrinal purity. It seems to me that by definition those who divide and condemn do not exhibit any of the above fruit.
Further, if one uses the scripture interpretation method of Jesus and his followers.... that is... a strictly redemptive interpretation.... and, I think that we have sufficiently proven over the entries in this blog... that in fact, that was Jesus method.... the one he taught to his followers always; And more than this, if you witness the inclusiveness of Jesus as he ate and interacted with sinners it should be crystal clear that he was focused on the fruit you see listed above. That should be the source of the unity of the Spirit.