“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
I am grieved by the number of churches that have left the PC (U.S.A.), and by the losses of members in the churches that remain within the denomination.
I know there are those who, when it comes to the peace, unity and purity of the church, take their stand on the side of purity that is when they understand purity conflicts with peace and unity. Of course the problem with standing on the side of purity is that it can lead to intolerance, and at its worst it becomes violent. On the other hand taking a stand for peace and unity over purity can creep into the church and waters down our theology, and at its worst leads to heresy.
I take issue with publications such as the Presbyterian Layman which seems to take the side of purity and in so doing publishes one negative article after another about the PC (U.S.A.). Some of those who have left the denomination were led to do so by the Layman; but to look to the Layman to give a picture of the PC (U.S.A.) is akin to trusting the Huffington Post to give an honest assessment of the Republican Party, or allowing Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh to give us a picture of the Democratic Party.
If we err in our desire to be faithful to Jesus Christ, we should err on the side of peace and unity. Granted this will lead to diversity, maybe even a diversity with which we are uneasy, but a diversity which will make us grow.
When in conflict, I come down on the side of peace and unity in diversity. I say this because the only prayer Jesus prays for the modern church is that we be one.
Remember Jesus’ prayer in John 17. He prays, “I pray for those who will believe in me through their message.” That is us, we believe because of the message of the apostles. “That they may all be one.” Sounds like a prayer that we seek peace and unity over purity, though I don’t want to throw purity out. “…That the world may believe that you have sent me.” WOW, that is the crux. We all think evangelism is important, but we will not be very effective unless we are one. For goodness sakes, lets learn to live with diversity, learn to live with each other, seek the glory of Jesus Christ, and make his love and salvation known to the world!