My pocket calendar says that tomorrow, Thursday, November 14th, is Ashura, a time of fasting and meditation by Muslims.
Islamic scholars disagree over the origin of the holiday and Islamic clerics are divided on how the holiday should be commemorated (Wikipedia). These differences often lead to violence between the two major sects of Islam.
Religious division isn’t limited to Islam and violence has also put a pox on Christian history due to differences in interpretation of scripture, if not outright distortion of God’s word (2 Peter 3:15-16).
While most congregational splits now happen over matters like business decisions or opinions that are not doctrinally based, division that took place long ago due to distortion of scriptures, setting aside God’s commands, or adding to God’s commands is the reason we have so many denominations and sects within denominations today. This is sad (and actually sinful) because Jesus prayed that it wouldn’t happen (John 17:9-11, 20-23).
This division only leads to confusion among those who might otherwise be interested in Christianity. I’ve heard an encounter that took place in early American history between a Native American chieftain and a group of Christian missionaries representing different sects. The chieftain asked how they could expect his people to follow a God that the missionaries followed in different ways.
The church is to be one body following the one Lord, through one faith and baptism, and having one hope — our eternal life in the Lord’s presence (Ephesians 4:1-6; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Since there is only one faith (gospel of salvation), we are to present the same concepts, speaking only where the Bible speaks and doing Bible things the Bible way (1 Corinthians 1:10; 1 Peter 4:11). This is the only way to truly show God’s love to the world so they can be drawn to him (Ephesians 4:14-16).
Paul taught the same thing everywhere he went (1 Corinthians 4:17; 16:1). Consequently, if he wrote something to the churches in Galatia, he also taught that to the Romans and everywhere else (Galatians 3:26-4:7; Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 2:20-21; 5:24; Romans 6:3-7).
There is no contradiction in scripture that could lead to sectarianism when it is honestly applied. The true church is devoted to the Apostles’ doctrine and to not teach the same gospel that they taught is to bring condemnation upon oneself (Acts 2:42; Galatians 1:6-9).
It’s the responsibility of every Christian to study God’s word for themselves to verify that it is being handled correctly by their clerics (those who teach) and so they can present it correctly to the world whenever the opportunity arises (Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15 1 Peter 3:15-16).
Christians can understand God’s word and to not study it is a sin that does violence to the church by allowing sectarianism (1 Corinthians 2:12-16; Ephesians 3:1-4; James 4:17). But if we become united as one body, there’s no deception and there should be no confusion for those who want to know the truth (2 Corinthians 4:2-4; 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12).
Let’s do that.
Leonard Lauriault is a member of the Church of Christ in Logan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org