My grandpa lived through the fall of Apartheid in South Africa. He tells powerful stories about the segregation of those days, how blacks, whites, and colourds were not to be in each others areas after sundown. Racial animosity saturated the country, and these forms of segregation are not dead in the world! Far from it, folks split, mark, name, keep distance, and even kill because of racial, religious, social, and economic differences.
Because of the sins of mankind, God divided men at the Tower of Babel (Genesis 11). He caused different families to speak in different tongues so that they could not communicate effectively and so that they would divide from one another! That’s right–God intended men to divide, and it was a punishment for sin. They were not obeying His mandate to spread out and fill the earth.
Much later in history, God drew men of all races back together in His Son, and He began this process by overcoming the language barrier on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). Jesus broke down the greatest dividing wall in existence, a religious wall, the Law of Moses, which separated the Jews from the Gentiles (Ephesians 2). Now He calls all men to repent by submitting to His Son Jesus Christ. There is no place for segregation in Jesus Christ!
In Christ there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female, because all souls belong to God in the same way. All souls have the same value to God. There is nothing within you or me to make us greater or less than our neighbors or our spouses or the folks across the ocean.
When Jesus arrived on earth and began His ministry, He came into a split and divided Jewish community. Even within Israel itself existed a myriad of factions: Pharisee, Sadducee, Essene, Zealot, Herodian, etc. And Jesus pulled men from all of these factions to be part of His most trusted team of twelve, the apostles! Matthew, the tax collector, lived in truce and allegiance to the authorities who were currently oppressing the Jews. Simon, the Zealot, hated those traitors with a passion. Paul, on the fact-track to becoming a great leader of the Pharisees, would never have accepted half of the other twelve because of various traditions and Scripture interpretations.
But Jesus Himself did not accept any of the factions. Graciously, He ministered to all of the factions, but He continued to challenge every one of them. No Jewish sect was correct. Only God is correct; only Jesus walked the pure walk; and His challenge to us is to walk as He walked!
Can we walk outside the gross religious sectarianism of our day? Can we lovingly minister to men and women of every denomination without accepting the corruptions existing among those denominations? I believe God’s challenge to us is exactly this: to walk with Him without allowing any earthly, man-created system to dictate our path. King Hezekiah, King Josiah, Nehemiah and Ezra, and the reformation leaders in the late 1400s and 1500s had this same heart: return to Scripture Alone! Those men sought to escape the power and systems of men in order to walk simply with God.
I’m afraid those same fighters and martyrs would view our current fractured landscape of so-called “Christianity” with heavy hearts. I know I do. First, I seek to align myself first with the Lord through the word of His Holy Spirit. Second, I seek to align myself with brothers and sisters who have a heart for that same word of God: Scripture Alone! Though this is the only way to unity in Christ, because of our messy human situations and imperfect understandings and sin, we’ll never achieve perfect unity on earth. But can we strive for the ideal? Can we give ourselves to tearing down the walls separating the sects, as Jesus gave His life-blood to tear down the wall separating Jew and Gentile?
We surely cannot do this by creating another sect! We must be Christians only.