Some years ago, my three brothers and I got together for a family reunion. We gathered our wives and kids and traveled to a central location and spent a weekend eating, swimming, participating in a talent show but mostly just catching up on what was going on in each other’s lives. Our kids got a chance to experience their uncles, aunts, and cousins who, because of the distance between them, hardly knew each other.
Even though my family is quite spread out geographically, it took very little time to connect and bond with each other. I think that is because we all had something in common. We are family. We are connected because we have a common history and shared family stories that creates a unity that transcends miles or years. Even though we are all different, and we are certainly different, there is something that makes us the same. We are Ermoian’s. We are family.
As Christ’s church we too share in a common heritage. A common history. A shared family story, His-Story. And as brothers and sisters in Christ, even though we have our differences, and we certainly do have our differences, we have unity because we are connected to each other as the family of God. The body of Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote this to the Ephesians;
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit– just as you were called to one hope when you were called–one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6
Regrettably Christians too often do not make the effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace, but rather we stay in what Bill Easum calls our own tribes. We huddle up only in our Methodist or Baptist or Presbyterian or Assembly of God families. Unfortunately, the non-Christian world looks at these divisions within the body of Christ and wonders why we cannot get along better with one another. The early church before denominations was known for its oneness and its unity.
When I lived in Ellis County Kansas, every year the churches of the community had kind of family reunion. We called it “Festival of Faith: and it is a joyful coming together of area congregations with the intent purpose of celebrating our unity while downplaying our differences. When I meet people and ask them if they are Christians they often answer by telling me the name of the denomination they are affiliated with. When they do I politely respond saying, “Excuse me but you’re not a Baptist. You are a Christian who attends a Baptist church.” People are not a Methodists, or Presbyterians but rather Christians who attend Methodist and Presbyterian churches. When people respond to my question with, “I’m Catholic”, I politely respond by saying, excuse me but you’re not a Catholic, you are a Christian who attends a Catholic church. You should see the looks I sometimes get. But I believe this is the Gospel truth. By acknowledging ourselves as Christians only, we can celebrate our unity in Christ while recognizing our diversity by the churches we attend. We are Christians. We are brothers and sisters. We are family.