I have written before about my trip to Israel that I took back in 2017. It was and remains very formative to my faith. To be able to walk where Jesus walked, stand where Paul once stood, and touch the same water that Peter took those steps of faith on was amazing. The Bible truly came to life. From the minute that I left, I have desired to go back. It was a 10-day spiritual high for me and the others on the trip.
One of the coolest things that you see is Christian pilgrims coming to the Holy Land from all over the world. I would venture to say that I saw Christ followers from every continent while I was there. It was a great reminder that the Church is much bigger than anything that I could have fathomed. It was proof that the Gospel does not know any borders. Christ came for the whole world, and his mission was not a failure.
One of the most moving moments was when we were in Jerusalem and following the last days of Christ. We had arrived at Caiaphas’ house and where it is believed that Jesus was held overnight as a prisoner before being taken to Pilate. As was often the case at the major pilgrimage sites, we were waiting on the group ahead of us to finish before we could enter into the sacred space. As we stood on the steps awaiting our turn, we started to hear singing. The group in front of us was from Asia, but I’m not sure which country. Suddenly, a very familiar song filled my ears in a language that I did not understand. They were singing Amazing Grace. Though my brain was unaware of what they were saying, my heart knew every single word. It was beautiful. I could feel the Holy Spirit in me connecting with the Holy Spirit in all of them. I was in community with people whom I did not know but was connected with because of something far deeper than I will ever understand.
That day will always serve as a reminder to me that Christianity is far bigger than me, my church, or my country. Christ came not for a people but for all people. The Jewish understanding of the Messiah did not agree with that. They believed that he was coming for only them. However, Jesus quickly dispelled that belief. He had this to say in John 10:16, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” He was explaining to his disciples that he came for everyone— not only for the Jews.
On top of that, he also says that we are to be ‘one flock’. This is where I believe that we have the most trouble. We very much want to build walls in Christianity.
Unfortunately, those walls end up becoming the church building. We want to divide over beliefs, denominations, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomics, nationality, music style, etc. Instead of working together to grow God’s kingdom, we become worried about establishing our little kingdoms. The only thing that this creates is division. This is what Jesus had to say about that; “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:24-25). There is too much in-fighting and separation that goes on in Christendom. The chief characteristics of the church should be love for one another and being united. Is that an accurate image of what the church is today?
I am not anti-denominations. I believe that they serve a purpose. None of us have a perfect understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Denominations allow us to find a place where we feel most comfortable theologically and stylistically. There’s nothing wrong with that. The issues start when we believe that our theology makes us superior to other Christians. Jesus tells us in John 14:2, “My Father’s house has many rooms.” I think that there is space for all of us in God’s mansion. To be honest, there is far more that most denominations have in common than there is that separates us. If we all agree on the core tenets of the Gospel, everything else is secondary. The Church should be a big, worldwide community full of very different individuals.
Just as my heart was connected to those believers from Asia, all of our hearts should be connected. We are all children of our loving Father. Christ died for every one of us. The Holy Spirit dwells in each believer. That is what should unite us. We shouldn’t want to fight battles over every little thing. We should work together to share the truth of Jesus’ death and resurrection with the world. Only then will we see God’s kingdom truly established here on earth. At some point, every one of us was considered ‘the other sheep’. Why are we so quick to give that label to those who don’t agree with us? We should not perpetuate division amongst God’s people. Instead, we need to strive to be one flock that is connected by the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That is what it means to be the Church.