In society at large today, there is a growing number of Christians who are seemingly swallowing the separation of church and state 'hook, line, and sinker'. Thankfully, there is also a growing number who are beginning to see the utter vanity, indeed the danger of this proposition. It is God's Church, after all, of which He is in full and total control!
Many Christians seem to be afraid to venture into certain areas of discussion, even ( maybe 'especially' ) with other believers, for the sake of unity. A question, though, that needs to be asked; 'can there be true Christian unity, when there is no unity of faith ( as opposed to mere, simple belief )? A good friend of mine recently posed this question, 'How can one who lives honestly and who despises covetousness have any "unity" with one who presses the civil authority to plunder, lie and steal?' Can we agree to disagree on such a matter? I think an honest interpretation of Scriptural principles would tell us that we cannot! There is right and there is wrong, and right can only be right, while wrong can only be wrong. As we often tell our children, when faced with a situation of, 'well, he/she did it first'; 'two wrongs don't make a right'! Our Lord's brother put it this way, 'Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.[b]' We are commanded to bring every thought ( this would include 'word and action' ) into captivity to God ( II Corinthians 10:5 ), so how can we say, 'that's a different realm, we have no authority there'? 'I mean, doesn't Revelation 22;11 say 'He who is unjust, let him be unjust still; he who is filthy, let him be filthy still; he who is righteous, let him be righteous still; he who is holy, let him be holy still'?' Well, sure; it does say that, but, aside from pulling that statement out of its historical context, to apply this statement to our situation today, and use it as an excuse to stay out of the 'political' realm, so as not to dirty our hands ( so to speak ); flies in the face of Jesus' commands!
The apostle Paul asked the question, 'what communion has light with darkness?' ( II Corinthians 6:15b ), and tells us, 'have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose [ them ]' ( Ephesians 5:11 ). How are we to have true unity if one believes that we can, on one hand, collaborate with 'the darkness' and on the other, claim to be the 'light of the world'? Some believe that we can straddle this fence. It seems that they think that just by being there and shaking our head and rolling our eyes at their silliness, we can make a difference. Better not voice too much disapproval though, or we might lose our favored 501 ( c ) 3 status!
Much of today's church, what might be called 'that inhabited by a rabid evangelicalism', has become such because of bad theology, or a wrong understanding of God and Who He is, based on a faulty interpretation of the revelation of His Word. One simple example of this is our foreign policy, which, for the most part, and again, because of a faulty interpretation of certain Scriptures, is fully supported by many evangelical leaders. Much of the reason, I won't say all, for this unfailingly blind support, at least for the war in the Middle East involving the nation/state of Israel, in the ancient land of Palestine, is based on the belief that the promises of God given to Abram and his descendants were of a physical, rather than a spiritual nature. The apostle Paul, in numerous letters to the Church, clearly states that the promises made to Abraham were of a spiritual, rather than a physical nature ( although these promises, the land promises, in particular, can be shown to have seen their fulfillment to that 'generation' ). Several examples where Paul clearly states this are Romans 2:28 & 29, where he wrote, 'he is not a Jew who [ is one ] outwardly, nor [ is ] circumcision that which [ is ] outward in the flesh', and 'circumcision [ is that ] of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter'. Later on in this letter ( 9:8 ), he wrote, 'those who [ are ] the children of the flesh, these [ are ] not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed'. In his letter to the Galatians: the apostle, at the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, implied strongly that the physical signs and seals given under the old covenant, were simply shadows, or pictures, previews, if you will, of the greater spiritual realities of the New Covenant in Christ. He wrote ( 3:29 ), 'if you [ are ] Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise' ( see also 3:7 ). Later, in Galatians 4:24-26; we read that, 'these are the[d] two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar-for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children-but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all'. In his letter to the Ephesians ( 3:16 ), Paul prayed 'that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man', 'the mystery', he wrote, 'which in other ages was
not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the
Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets'.
'Isn't it a bit harsh to call modern evangelicals 'rabid?'
First of all; I did not say that all modern evangelicals are 'rabid', or even that evangelicals at all, in part or in whole, are 'rabid' ( ie, just because one is evangelical, does not mean that one is 'rabid' )! The rabidness depends, in large part, on the nature of the individual. Many seem to have the notion that, if you don't believe exactly the way they do, ascribe to their doctrinal 'stance', or even attend the same church they do, then you may not be headed for 'heaven' and are likely not even worth their time. There are many evangelicals out there who practice their faith, relying, not so much on what one believes, but on what one does ( 'You will know them by their fruits' ( Matthew 7:15-20 ) as to whether one is 'in the faith' or not. Although these most often have a somewhat misguided doctrine in some areas, eschatology, for instance, they are true to their evangelical 'faith', working to bring God's Kingdom 'on earth as [ it is ] in heaven' ( Luke 11:2c ). Others have taken the bait, and have latched onto an individualistic interpretation of Scripture, one which is even harder to avoid with an almost full-scale worship of statism. This individualism, I believe, as opposed to a covenantal approach, is largely at fault for a misunderstanding of many Scriptures, and the adoption of the idea that it is more important what you believe than what you do, at least, outside the four walls of the church ( building )! While it is important that one believes certain things, in that one usually acts according to one's beliefs, it is of utmost importance that one do the right thing, else, as James said, 'Show me your faith without your[d] works, and I will show you my faith by my[e] works' ( James 2:18b ). 'Even the demons believe', James said, so if one simply believes, but does not act accordingly, 'this one’s religion is useless' ( James 1:26 ).
Individuality, don't get me wrong, is a good thing, and something to be celebrated, but individualism is not a good thing, and must be avoided at all costs! As individual members of the Body of Christ, we are, in that sense, One ( corporate ) Body, but, while we retain our individuality, we must realize that it is not about individual human beings; it is about the Body of Christ: it was not individual human beings, random persons who would accept Him, for whom Christ died, and shed His precious blood, it was for His people that God sent of Himself and 'bore our sins in His own body on the tree'( I Peter 2:24a ).
Thus, I am not, by any means, saying that our individuality should go out the window since we, 'being many, are one body' ( although certain aspects of it should ). The marriage bond, at its basis, is identical to the covenant between us and God, for as God said in Genesis 2:24, 'they shall become one flesh'. Now we know that when a man and a woman are joined in marriage, they do not actually become one body, or one person. They are both individuals, one a male and one a female, with different ( and inter-locking ), but complimentary parts. But this is the analogy that Paul uses of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5:32. Though we have become One with Christ, having joined Him in the spiritual marriage covenant, we are still individuals. We all have differing gifts, different parts, and when we work together as One Body, which we are, regardless, it is a beautiful thing; God is glorified, and we experience heaven on earth!
The Danger of Individualism!
I recently heard a saying, and you may have heard this before too; 'the only good 'ism' is a prism'! Evangelicals, as I said earlier, are not a bad thing; we are to evangelize ( spread the good news ), whether by sharing our thoughts, words, or deeds ( mostly, hopefully, by our deeds! ), but when the point of the whole operation comes down to 'being saved', or 'pulling them out of the fire' ( Jude 1:23 ), it becomes pointless, having become 'evangelicalism'. As discussed before, the difference between individuality and individualism is quite marked; one is a product of God, one is a doctrine of demons, er, man! There are many other 'isms' that could be mentioned here, and when you really think about it, add 'ism' to any doctrine, or theology, and it is proven to be, not only man-based, but man-centered!
Individualism is dangerous for several different reasons: first, it puts the focus more on the individual 'getting saved', etc., than on the salvation that Jesus wrought for His people ( Matthew 1:21 ), and secondly, it tends to focus more on what the individual MUST do, rather than on what Jesus ( God ) did! This is not, again, to say that the individual has no choice, or responsibility in the matter, but the fact is; if indeed Christ died for a certain people ( 'His People' ), and gave them 'a new heart and...........a new spirit' ( Ezekiel 36:25-27 ), then, because of the redeeming work of the Holy Spirit ( God ), they WILL make that choice, having been given, not only individually, but as we read about in the following chapter ( 37 ), corporately, as a Body, the Body of Israel, 'a heart of flesh', not one of stone, which is not mold-able or pliable, but can be broken when trying to shape.
Individuality, again, and even the celebration of it, is a good thing; we are all different people ( thank God )! We each have a part to play; that's the way God has designed it, I believe, each one doing his part to make one perfect ( completed ) whole. Think of Henry Ford's success with the assembly line.When we live in communion, as One Body in Christ ( as the Body of Christ, more precisely ), even though we all have differing gifts, and may even have our own ( individual ) little 'quirks', then the Body of Christ functions as it should, honoring it's Head! When we do do not act in communion as we should; errors abound, not least of which is the abomination known as 'divorce'!
Charles Haddon Shank