I have a dream.
Is there a place where a Trump lover and a Never Trumper can exist in peace?
Can a home-school only mother and one who appreciates not such educational practices do Sunday school together? How about the mother who feels called of God to stay at home and the one who feels called of God to grow her corporation; can they view others better than themselves?
What about an exclusive psalmist, an exclusive hymnist, a classically trained choral director, and those singing brand new songs with new beats and plugged in instruments; can they all prefer one another and delightfully sing without division?
Can white people feel accepted, included, wanted, and loved in an all black assembly? How about black people in a white man’s club? And can first-generation Latin friends find acceptance in either?
Where can poor, second-generation welfare recipients be found serving in leadership right beside more wealthy right-wing libertarians? Can those with no money be seen as valuable as those with old money? Can we utilize people from all parts of the socio-economic scale as self-sacrificing slaves, other-person-focused servants, or deacons?
Is there an assembly where a Nouthetic Counselor (one who totally devalues psychology) and a Christian Psychologist (one who greatly values psychology) can serve together on the same leadership board?
What about 3-point, 4-point, and 5-point Calvinists; can they ever be found studying the Scriptures and teaching one another in unity? Could such humble unity be found amongst both Cessationists and Continualists, Complimentarians and Egalitarians?
How about modern day clerics who find themselves in positions like John Calvin and Martin Luther before they left the Papal kingdom? Can those who love the Bible, hold the true Gospel, and yet still find themselves within Roman Catholic courts, wearing Roman Catholic garb, seeking to bring about doctrinal and ecclesiastical reform within their less than perfect sect, can they come to the table with those of us seeking to proclaim the true Gospel in our less than perfect Protestant sects?
What about those who march with signs in front of abortion clinics, those who do not appreciate such actions but pray to end abortion from their sofas, and those who have entered abortion clinics to terminate the life growing within, can they all be declared saints and found leading local women’s ministries?
And then the big one — what about those who use less water earlier in life and those who use more water later in life? Both believe Jesus graciously saves without works or religious ceremony. Both believe in God who washes, Jesus who died and was resurrected, and the Spirit who sprinkles, pours, and immerses with his love and power. All are interested in obeying the Great Commission. Could they all pursue truth and worship together as part of the same baptized family?
Oh, please do not misinterpret what I am saying:
- I am not saying truth does not matter.
- I am not saying truth is relative.
- I am not saying truth is not worth fighting for.
- I am not saying truth is less important than peace.
- I am not saying truth must be squelched.
- I am not saying every church must allow every doctrine and every practice.
- I am not saying anything goes. No, God has a Law and it defines right and wrong.
Therefore, please do not put words in my mouth. All of us need to pursue trust – seriously and humbly. All of us need to zealously and lovingly pass truth along to our children, students, friends, neighbors, and world.
However, what are differing Christians to do — those who are equally loved of God; those who equally love God, equally love God’s Word, equally love truth, and wish to pursue both the purity and peace of the church? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if “mystic sweet communion” was perpetually experienced? Is there any gathering place where serious, devoted, educated, zealous, and heterogeneous saints are enjoying peaceful fellowship?
Well friends, I have good news. The answer to the above question is:
Yes, there has been, there is, and there will be a gathering place where serious, devoted, educated, zealous, and heterogeneous saints enjoy purity and peace.
Thy Will Be Done in Heaven
First of all, this place is in heaven, and representatives from all the above camps are found there. Around the throne of God right now are found liberals, conservatives, home-schoolers, private-schoolers, public-schoolers, house moms, working moms, acapella singers, psalm singers, hymn singers, and praise singers. Singing in the heavenly choir are those red, yellow, black, and white who are all precious in God’s sight. There, next to the Wonderful Counselor are both nouthetic admonishers and degreed psychologists. In God’s heavenly kingdom of priests there are some churchmen who were too narrow in utilizing women and their gifts; next to them on their knees are those who were too liberal. In glory, right next to John Calvin, are those who thought too much of him as well as those who did not so much appreciate the man and his theology. In heaven today, there are no Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, Pentecostals, and Methodists However there are many who formerly enjoyed such classifications when on earth. And before the throne, at the feet of Jesus, honoring him with gold, frankincense, myrrh, perfume, tears, kisses, and song are those who marched against sin and those who marched into sin. Heaven is a glorious place. It is filled with truth. It is filled with grace. It is filled with peace.
Thy Will Be Done on Earth as in Heaven
In addition to heaven, this place of purity and peace has also been found in some earthly churches. This is exactly what one sees in the first- century church when black, white, Roman, Jewish, rich, poor, male, female, free, slave, commoners, royalty, circumcised, uncircumcised, meat-eaters, meat-abstainers, wine-drinkers, teetotalers, struggling pornographers, struggling adulterers, struggling homosexuals … and believe it or not … even those struggling with legalism and pride where found praying in house-churches and eating at the table of the Lord. Yes, the early Aplostolic church was an odd collection of worshipers who kept the peace because they focused on God’s Law which persistently helped man see his odious sin, God’s Gospel which persistently declared sinful men to be saints, and God’s Spirit which continually aided men in humility, spiritual hunger, ongoing education, radical commitment, progressive sanctification, and brotherly love.
And today, there are some local households of faith that honor the Bible, honor good hermeneutics, honor doctrine, and honor education. Yes, they honor truth, but along with valuing truth they also honor grace and peace. They teach with sincere passion, but they allow those in their family to digest God’s truth at their own pace. They are not interested in brow-beating those within their pews, and they trust the Holy Spirit to use the Holy Word to change the hearts and habits of people at God’s own pace.
Friends, this is one fantastic truth about PCA churches. (Presbyterian Church in America) We are people who wish to honor God, honor his Word, practice good hermeneutics, learn from our fathers, hold forth to faithful doctrine, and pass this along to all within our realm of influence. And in the PCA, there are only five vows one must hold to be a fully-included brother and sister in the church, and none of these vows have to do with politics, household roles, secondary doctrines, or any of the other categories mentioned above. In order for one to be a fellow in one of our fellowships, one must only believe:
- We are all hopeless sinners.
- We are only trusting in the gracious work of Jesus.
- We are hungry to grow as disciples.
- We are committed to the worship and work of the church?
- We are interested in submitting ourselves to the spiritual oversight of certain elders and wish to diligently guard both the purity and peace of the church?
Friends, let us all purse unity despite our diversity. Christ’s churches should be places of “mystic, sweet communion” with differing saints “whose rest is won.”* The world should marvel that we, who are so different, have so much love one for another. While on earth, we do not have to be unanimous in our doctrine and practice. We do not have to agree on how the sovereignty of God intersects with the responsibility of man. Whether or not strict tithing is still required of those in the New Covenant, that can remain a matter of differing interpretations and opinons. We do not have to parent the same way, sing the same way, dress the same way, vote the same way, or baptize the same way. So, as we diligently pursue doctrinal purity, and as we lovingly seeking to sharpen one another, let us be equally devoted to the “bond of ecclesiastical peace.” Christ is the one who saves his elect, and he only has one body. Christ is the one who marries his church, and he only has one bride. Let’s us find unity around the five vows listed above. Let’s keep the “main things the main things” and keep all secondary, tertiary, quaternary, quinary, senate, septenary, octonary, binary, and depary issues where they belong.
Friends, do you have such a dream?
Jesus had such a dream, and it was not an unrealistic fantasy.
Unity despite diversity has been accomplished in the past.
Unity despite diversity will be accomplished in the future.
Unity despite diversity is being accomplished in heaven.
Unity despite diversity should be accomplished on earth. I believe that is part of what we are praying for when we ask our Father to cause his “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
* Words from the hymn, “The Church’s One Foundation”