I remember as a young boy having “sword” fights with other boys. We were lucky we didn’t put our eyes out. What a swashbuckling young pirate I thought of myself. Defending my treasure against other sea pirates. I was courageous and fearless (at least so I had imagined). But I was always scolded for playing “sword fight” because occasionally someone did get hurt and it was sometimes me.
The armor of God, as described in the Bible in Ephesians 6:10-18 is intended for Christians to defend themselves from the enemy. The enemy who is described as that great lion that roams about seeking whom he might devour. But God has not left us defenseless. He has left us the helmet of salvation, the breastplate of His righteousness, and so on. The sword, which is the Word of God, is the only offensive weapon we have against the enemy, but too often Christians wield the sword against each other.
When the disciples came to Jesus to tell Him that others were preaching in His name. They came in a self-righteous attitude of “how dare they!” What does Jesus do but rebuke them and says, “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you” (Luke 9:50; NIV and elsewhere). Church tradition indicates that Peter was crucified upside down, feeling unworthy to die in the way that Christ die. When Jesus told Peter how he would die some day, that is you would be carried where you did not want to go, Peter then looked at John and said, “and what about him (the disciple that Jesus loved, which was John) Jesus basically said, that is none of your business Peter. Jesus said, “What’s that to you, ”If I want him to remain alive until I come. You must follow me” (John 21:22). He told Peter, feed the flock.” It was like Jesus rebuked him about something that was not none of his business and not of importance to the Great Commission and to the church in general. It was something that Peter had no business worrying about.
A house divided can not stand nor is the Body of Christ divided (the church). What body member do you have that has attacked another? Yet, I have seen Christians attack each other, openly, on what are peripheral issues to Jesus Christ. One believes in the Rapture, another doesn’t. Some believe one thing, others believe in another. Like Paul said, some esteem one day over another, some eat meat, and some do not. Paul’s point is we must no offend other Christians, especially newer converts, over things that are not salvation dependent.
Some of the most vicious criticisms that some Christians have ever faced have not been from non-believers, but from other Christians. And some in the denomination I am in. Jesus suffered the worst persecution from the “religious” groups in His day. He was more accepted by those who were not even religious. Aren’t Christians supposed to be united in one purpose and goal, just as we should be in one hope, one faith and one in Christ Jesus?
You have probably heard this many times: The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing…and that is Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. Why are there so many different denominations? I believe it is because we have different beliefs but these beliefs are often over non-essential issues. Issues which are not critical to the central crux of the Gospel become battle grounds.
What this does is destroys our witness and its effectiveness and degrades the witness of Christianity. So what if another worships on Saturday, another won’t eat pork, another doesn’t believe in the rapture. I have heard some believe that others are condemned to hell while they themselves are not for holding certain beliefs. A slippery slope is always dangerous ground. If they are not against Christ, why should we be because we have slightly different views? I feel when we get to heaven, we will all, (me included) discover that we have been wrong about certain beliefs we held as true. But the centrality of the cross and Jesus crucified is solid theological ground and not negotiable, so why should we (as I have too) negotiate and judge one another in areas that are not essential to the message of the Gospel?
It is not always the new converts that are so zealous that clash with other’s beliefs. It can be those who have been in the faith for many years. Jesus went into sit with tax collectors, prostitutes, and sinners and He accepted them and they welcomed Him…but we can not accept each other who are supposed to be one in faith and hope and love? This always outraged the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the priests. In I John 4:20 and elsewhere, John repeatedly says that no one who claims to really love God, will despise or hate their brother or sister (I John 1:6). No one who consistently attacks and criticizes another Christians has the love of God abiding in Him. Jesus said this is the litmus test: By this, all men (& women) may know, if you have love, one for another. That was the very last commandment given to the disciples before His crucifixion. The old church hymn Onward Christian Soldiers was sung with the idea that we were on the same side.
Why do many different churches exist? Well, why do so many different people groups, different tongues and different nations exist? I feel God loves variety and anyone who’s ever seen a mountain side on a bright sunny morning can see that. Variety gives spice to food, not to mention life. There can be many different belief systems and differing faiths, but One Christ unit’s One Body of His and has one central theme: Jesus died for our sins, He was crucified in our place so that we might have eternal fellowship and life with God to enjoy Him forever, and glorify, praise and worship Him for eternity in great joy. When Christians lower their swords against each other and wield them against the one who it is intended for, then the true purpose for the sword is found. Scripture indicated that It is most certainly not intended for other Christians.