“Carry each other’s burdens and so you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
Galatians 6:2 (Common English Bible)
We live today in a period of considerable religious upheaval. It is not the first time in our nation’s history. I doubt it will be the last. Entire congregations are now separating from denominations for another that more closely aligns with their particular theology and reading of the Bible. People are leaving particular churches and moving to others that are either more conservative or more liberal. Apparently they have made the decision that they cannot worship with those who may hear something else from the Lord. What is unfortunate in all this division is the failure to grasp that our common beliefs and our common challenge of declining church participation – and our common experience of God’s grace – is infinitely more important than the matters that divide us.
Reversing the unfortunate decisions of separation may not be realistic however deeply we may cherish the idea of one visible and united Body of Christ. Rather large theological hurdles have been put into place. Yet, this sentence from Galatians does speak of an immediate summons to all Christian people to seek from God a common strength to confront a world that is rapidly discarding the most basic beliefs of our common confession. Jesus Christ is the hope of the world. Therefore all Christians must exist for one another, in the apostle’s words, “Carry each other’s burdens.” Only by this will the larger church, “fulfill the law of Christ.”
What is the law of Christ? Nothing could be plainer: “This is my commandment: love each other just as I have loved you.” (John 15:12) Here is Christ’s summons to slam the door on all recrimination and jealousy and bitterness toward one another and live for and not against one another. This present religious turmoil and spiritual angst demands it. With declining interest in the church now at a national scale, we simply cannot indulge in petty infighting and rivalry.
This is not a request that the church abandon theological discussion and debate. Such conversation advances a robust faith. Each of us must speak our convictions as we discern God’s whisper. Yet, such convictions must be tempered with humility, the humility that acknowledges that there remains more truth to be heard by the church. Without ignoring our differences, the church must strive for a new spirit of understanding, sympathy and return to a deep spiritual communion with our Lord, the Head of the Church. Such a recovery of humility and civil discourse may prove to be a formidable force for bringing calm to the present spiritual storm. More, a distressed and confused generation may once again catch a glimpse of heaven and say together, “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, and in his Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, the giver of life.”