I love the view from the top of a mountain. It seems the higher one gets on altitude, the more grand the vision becomes. You can even see amazing things when flying at 30,000 feet that you could never see otherwise. But there is also a need for the close up view. There is beauty in the details as well.

Many of us look at the five or six foot view, because that is the view we are used to. As creatures of habit, we can easily forget that there is value in seeing the high altitude, or bigger picture in order to provide context for what we see up close. A classic example of this is to look at one puzzle piece of a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. It makes no sense to us unless we have the picture from the box top to provide the context.

There are many applications of this truth. For instance there is value in looking at the overall theme and circumstances of writing of an entire book of the Bible before embarking on a verse by verse, or even a word, study. It helps us keep those details on the context of the entire picture.

One thing that I was raised to do was to view the church in the same way. We get focused on our specific congregation, and sometimes forget about other congregations in our state, our country, or across the globe. We get wrapped up in the “local church” and fail to see “the universal church”. Or we look at Christians who agree with us and fail to consider those in the larger Body of Christ who may look or sound different than we do.

Here is a passage in 1 Corinthians 12 where Paul talks about the Body of Christ as different parts of a body. And believe me, we don’t want every organ and tissue doing the exact same thing in our natural bodies. So why do we expect that from other believers?

1 Corinthians 12:12-22 (NET)

For just as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body – though many – are one body, so too is Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body. Whether Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of the one Spirit. For in fact the body is not a single member, but many. If the foot says, “Since I am not a hand, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. And if the ear says, “Since I am not an eye, I am not part of the body,” it does not lose its membership in the body because of that. If the whole body were an eye, what part would do the hearing? If the whole were an ear, what part would exercise the sense of smell? But as a matter of fact, God has placed each of the members in the body just as he decided. If they were all the same member, where would the body be? So now there are many members, but one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I do not need you,” nor in turn can the head say to the foot, “I do not need you.” On the contrary, those members that seem to be weaker are essential,

Often we read this passage and think about the local congregation, and that is a good thing. But think for a moment about the universal church. By that I mean everybody who is truly in Christ, that Christ calls His own, no matter what kind of congregation they belong to. Think of everyone who has faith and believes Jesus is the son of God and that He was raised from the dead to pay the penalty justice demanded for their sin.

When we say other believers are not real Christians because they read the Bible and come to a different conclusion than we do, are we not in effect saying “I do not need you”? Is it pride that says anyone coming to a different conclusion is following the doctrines of men?

There are core essentials that we would find most Bible believing Christians would agree on. Things like the Trinity, Jesus being the Messiah and dying for our sins, and literally being raised from the dead are beyond dispute. But as we move out from those central teachings, our willingness to be dogmatic should gradually fade. We can agree on the essentials and show charity on the nonessentials. Do do otherwise is to practice sectarianism, which is much more destructive than denominationalism.

This is much to think about and meditate on, but it is a subject we must come to grips with, lest we reject those who are part of the Body of Christ.

Advertisements