Conformity Is Not Unity

I strongly believe that people crave unity. They want to know and feel like they are moving as one in the Body of Christ. Many have caught temporary glimpses of it before, and it was unmistakable when experienced, but it never seemed to last. Something always ended up in the way, and then they’d have to start from scratch, possibly in a new assembly or with a new fellowship of believers, and hope and dream for the prize promised to us by Christ: that we could be one with Him in the same way He was one with His Father (See John 17:21).

I am writing this blog to tell you that conformity is not unity. This is where it always falls apart. It will always come short of the glory of God when someone gets it into their head that the other believers of their assembly or fellowship have to conform to something they believe or teach requires conformity.

Someone thinks you have to dress like them, talk like them, entertain yourselves like them, minister like them, agree with them doctrinally or otherwise, like them, and on down the list it goes.

Unity is not achieved by agreeing to conform to someone else’s vision and understanding of everything they think God wants and wills for His people. Unity is allowing Christ to be Head, to allow Him the opportunity to express Himself according to His Word, through His Body, as He deems fit, without interference, but with acceptance and obedience, from us as His People.

And while I realize most would “amen” that statement, where the issues exist is when we try to define and comprehend the manner in which Christ, as Head, operates in His Body. We often don’t agree.

But note! Not agreeing does not have to destroy our unity! Unity is destroyed when, after a disagreement arises, someone attempts to squash it as rebellion without so much as taking enough time to seek the Lord with prayer and fasting, to really try to figure out what the truth of the matter is.

If we are genuinely motivated by love of the brethren, we ought to easily and earnestly be able to share our thoughts and ideas on any number of things, and recognize we have each other as a safety net, to do so, without fearing reprisals of judgment and/or condemnation from our peers.[1]

Now, before anyone thinks such an environment breeds or will breed heresy and false doctrine, let’s all just stop posturing and freely admit, that at one time or another, we’ve ALL had very strange and wonderful ideas run through our heads, that often didn’t make much sense, but nagged at us, to explore and search out to really see if they are of God, or not.[2]

If we would grant ourselves the personal liberty to ponder such things in the corners of our own minds, then we ought to be able to grant the same liberty to our beloved brothers and sisters, without freaking out if or when they ask us our opinion on what may seem to be an otherwise strange idea.[3]

We may listen, and make remarks, and, if we are humble, and if our spirit is right, when we think the idea we’ve just heard is wrong, we can say so in a way that affirms the person who shared it without supporting the idea, without making the person feel like they’ve been ostracized or rebuked for daring to wonder aloud something running through their minds (See 2 Timothy 2:24-26).

But conformity doctrine doesn’t allow for this. In conformity doctrine, whoever feels he or she has the sway in an assembly or fellowship, to pull rank due to office or whatever, comes to believe it is their divine mission in life to control what others think and believe, and to make sure that everyone conforms to their understanding of all matters related to the Christian life, meaning essentially, they aren’t to be questioned.

But that is a disaster waiting to happen! No one controls someone else’s mind like that, unless they’ve successfully found a way to assert “mind-control” over one of God’s kids.

Think about that for a moment. Christian headship is mind-ship, if you will, and when someone makes an attempt at controlling someone else’s mind on some matter or another, they are effectively admitting that they are attempting to be or become that person’s head, and are making a de facto admission of guilt as it pertains to manipulation and brain-washing.[4]

Psychopaths and sociopaths do this, but what about someone in the church you attend?

Why can’t we handle diversity of thought and conviction in those we call saints? Why must we seek to enforce a standard of life, thought, and conviction?[5] So you convince someone to not celebrate Christmas because it’s pagan? Whoop-Dee-Do! So now, someone in your assembly isn’t celebrating Christmas because it’s pagan because you said so, not because inwardly the Holy Spirit brought conviction and understanding of how he or she, and his or her family, ought to approach the holidays, and now, all of their unsaved loved ones look at them askance and take one HUGE step away from coming to the Son of God.

You convinced a woman that cutting her hair was a sin and that her salvation was on the line? Great, now she looks to you and not Christ, and certainly not to her husband, to decide what she should do with her split-ends.[6]

You order a man to quit his part-time, Saturday only or Sunday only job because it violates the Sabbath, or because he misses “church” and what have you done? Are you going to pay his bills when they come due because he hurried to conform to your order, thinking he had to because you scared him into thinking his soul was on the line for “forsaking the assembly”?[7]

You tell someone they have to stop teaching their view of church structure and organization because it’s causing doubt and confusion among some members of the church, because it doesn’t jive with your view, and you think it was your right to silence a brother or sister? Maybe with the gag order you just issued, you and the rest of your church just lost a chance to be led into all truth? Ever think about that?[8]

Listen, it’s not that there isn’t true and false doctrine. It’s not that there are no standards of righteous conduct, or of holiness, or of modesty, as found in the Holy Scriptures. This isn’t a throw your Bible out and do what you want approach to unity.

Rather it’s admitting that demanding someone conform to what you think the church is supposed to look like is missing the point. We aren’t supposed to be conformed to the image of the church! We are supposed to be conformed to the image of the Son of God (See Romans 8:29)!

Do you want unity in your church, dear saint? Do you really? I mean, really? Then listen up:

Stop exhorting people to see things your way, and start exhorting them to see things God’s way (without confusing the two) by seeking the Lord with their whole heart and by being in constant submission to His will as revealed day by day through the Holy Spirit.

This just comes down to faith, which is merely another way of talking about trust. Do you really trust Jesus to work out in His people the things He wants worked out, according to His timetable, in the manner of His choosing? If an assembly of 40 people daily submitted themselves to the will of God in Christ Jesus, and by so doing, sowed to the Holy Spirit, and therefore, walked in love, do you think there would be any issue with unity among that group of men and women?

Me, neither. But do you suppose for even one second, that all 40 of those people all believe exactly the same? Have the same moral convictions? That they uphold identical standards in every aspect of their lives? That they have the same exact understanding of basic or advanced Biblical doctrine? Do you suppose they all see and experience God the same exact way?

Maybe. Maybe they do. But I will let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t matter if they do or don’t, because they don’t have to, in order to maintain unity. Unity is oneness. And here’s how I define oneness: I love you as my neighbor the same way I love myself. It is the same love for you as it is for me. It is one love (See Philippians 2:2).[9]

Love does not demand conformity. Love permits, and even enjoys diversity. And if the talking-heads in our midst could stand to listen for a change, they might realize getting us to be more like them all too often causes us to be less like Jesus.

A sinner on the outside of grace likely doesn’t care what you believe, or if your fellow saints believe the same exact things, but rather, that sinner desperately wants to know if you love them, and if you can prove it, by how you treat them, how you respond to them, what respect you give them, if you honor them, and whether or not you offer genuine friendship to them.[10]

It’s the same, or ought to be the same, in the Body of Christ. I don’t care what you believe nearly as much as I care about whether or not you love me as you love yourself.[11] Everybody’s trying to be some un-Biblical version of the watchman on the walls a la Ezekiel 33, that they’ve forgotten how to come down from their  dare I say it, super-spiritual perch long enough to be normal enough to have real relationships “not based on ownership”, which is conformist.[12]

As I come to the end of this blog entry, I can’t help but wonder that perhaps this is just coming across as an overly emotional rant, and maybe if you’ve been reading all the way to this very point in the blog, you’re thinking ‘it’s a mighty nice soapbox to be standing on, but you’re wasting it on me’. Probably it is, in a manner of speaking. But I would leave you with this thought:

Conformist doctrine is “strings-attached” Christianity. That means someone somewhere is “pulling the strings”, as the saying goes. And whoever is pulling the strings to get you, me, him, her, them, to conform, is most certainly attempting to be the marionettest over me, you, him, her, them, and the life we are living. They are attempting to make us their puppet, even if they supposedly mean us well by doing so. When it comes right down to it, that’s just another word for slavery, friend of mine. You are not a slave to the church, to the ministry, to the pastor/leader/reverend/rabbi, to an organization, or even to your brother or sister in the Lord, or to anyone or anything else, but to Christ Alone. He owns your soul. It is His blood that saves. We conform ourselves, with the help of the Comforter, to Jesus, Son of God and Man.

Therefore, in unity there are no strings attached. Love is not a string that anyone can just come along and pull to make us move. Love is a command from above, and if we would actually find out how to properly walk and talk, move, and minister, in love, we’d have all the unity we’d ever hoped and dreamed to find. We’d be conformed to the image of God’s dear Son, our precious Jesus of Nazareth, instead of to someone else, and none the worse off for it.

Until next time,

Peace and God bless,

The Votive Soul

_________________________________________________________________________________________

[1] First and foremost, the church should be able to insulate itself from internal errors, being the ground and pillar of the truth, without having to sacrifice the person or persons who has/have erred. Jesus came not to destroy but to save. We who rescue those who have erred save souls from certain death (See Luke 9:56 with John 3:17, then 1 Timothy 3:15, and finally James 5:19-20).

[2] For me personally, there have been times when an idea came to mind, and I began to earnestly search the Holy Scriptures for hours at a time, only to come up empty, wondering if the Lord sent me on a snipe hunt just to help me dig into His Word and learn It better.

[3] I can’t think of a single, sincere (as opposed to “foolish and unlearned”) question about God, the Bible, the Christian faith, or etc. that ought to scandalize a single saint into dis-fellowshipping the person who asked the question, no matter the content. Remember Pilate. He asked Jesus “What is truth?”, not realizing he was staring Truth in the face. And yet, Jesus didn’t condemn him for asking, or for not recognizing who Jesus was and what He represented. This was immediately before Pilate had Him beaten, scourged and crowned with thorns (See John 18:38 and John 14:6). If Christ had desired an opportunity to impugn Pilate for asking such a ridiculous question, it would have been the perfect time. Yet, He did no such thing (See 1 Peter 2:23 and 1 Timothy 6:13). So ask yourself: why do so many of the saints of God impugn one another for raising any manner of sincere questions? In light of Christ’s confession before Pontius Pilate, it’s clear doing so is not very Christ-like.

[4] The Christian faith is one of persuasion. It’s the very root of the Greek word for “faith”. We read many times in many verses, that we need to be persuaded, of this or of that. But persuasion is not the same as coercion. Persuasion involves the presenting of accurate facts—why they are true and how they go together—and why accepting such facts is beneficial to the one being persuaded. When successful, it brings about spiritual conviction, as it’s really the Holy Spirit of Truth doing the heavy lifting through the anointing resting upon a person to engender faith in the hearer. Coercion, on the other hand, is a fear doctrine, stemming from a Mafioso mentality, as it attempts to break someone’s will down through force, instead of righteously engaging the heart and leading someone to submit himself or herself willingly, not to the speaker who attempts persuasion, but to the Author of the Word Who commands obedience. Coercion, therefore, is abusive and unjustly damages everyone involved.

[5] Before it even comes up, please allow me at this point to address 1 Corinthians 1:10. Some argue this means Paul demanded everyone in Corinth believe and teach the exact same doctrine across the board. But that wasn’t Paul’s goal, in my estimation. Paul was addressing divisions in the church, such that members there were claiming to be “of Paul, of Apollos, of Cephas, and of Christ” (v. 12). Factions were being created over who was looked at as the leader of the church. They were breaking off into splinter groups, and claiming their group was the right group to be a part of. Paul urged them to drop that nonsense, and to all affirm that they are only “of Christ”. Verse 13 proves this, as Paul asks rhetorically “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were you baptized in the name of Paul?”. He wanted them to all say the same thing about who they really belonged to. They were bought with the price Christ paid for them; therefore they were not “of Paul”, or “of Apollos” or “of Cephas”, and it wasn’t just some in Corinth who were “of Christ”. They ALL were of Him. We see therefore that Paul wasn’t expecting doctrinal tape recorders who could only confess what they were programmed and mandated to believe. He merely wanted them to stop exalting the minister over the Lord who had died for them.

[6] How many wives are you planning on having, anyways?

[7] While Hebrews 10:25 needs its own article, the short version is this: it doesn’t have anything to do with “missing church”. It means giving up on trying to figure out how the Body of Christ ought to come together in order to properly represent Him to the rest of the world in light of carnal and spiritual forces coming against them for doing so. Essentially, Hebrews is a warning to Jewish Christians who were on the edge of the knife, so to speak, in abandoning their salvation due to persecution, and how going back to a subservient existence under the Law, instead of continuing on steadfastly as believers in Christ Jesus, was not from God. Seen from that angle, it becomes clear Hebrews 10:25 isn’t about not being physically present in some building somewhere on some designated day at some designated time.

[8] Maybe it’s not polity, but some other major New Covenant doctrine. Are you really that keen on creating a schism in the Body because you don’t like what someone else believes? Maybe you should sit down with him or her for a few weeks and let him or her explain how he or she came to see what he or she believes he or she sees, and hey, you never know…It might end up being bogus, but you had better be fully prepared to patiently show him or her how and why instead of just cutting him or her off because you think he or she is underneath you in whatever capacity.

[9] The phrase “…being of one accord…” is only one word in Greek, namely: sunpsuchoi, and it means “harmonious in soul” (See: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/robertsons-word-pictures/philippians/philippians-2.html) and/or “with united souls” (See: http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/jamieson-fausset-brown/philippians/philippians-2.html). We see therefore having the same “love” means being united/having unity at the spiritual level of the soul.

[10] As opposed to you merely being a salesperson for Jesus trying to earn another soul-winning badge back at the lodge to impress all your Christian friends.

[11] And might I suggest Jesus feels the same way?

[12] The quote is from a Lauryn Hill song called “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind”. You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pb7KjMTgK-Q

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~ by votivesoul on 04/24/2017.

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