In the first days of the Gospel, there were 3 groups: Jewish Christians, believing Gentiles, and Gnostics. After 300 years, those 3 grew to 15; the Reformation tightened it to 9. After 2,000 years, those 9 are up to—get this—1,000! Multiply that by geography, and add a plethora of non‑denominational groups and the esoteric fringe, and it’s mind boggling.
Why the math lesson, you ask? Well, I’m studying Romans 14 & 15, about far more than food unto idols. The passage has instruction that—had it been heeded—may have prevented the division into 1,000 sects:
— accept the one who is weak in faith
— not to regard with contempt
— God has accepted him
— Who are you to judge the servant of another?
— the Lord is able to make him stand.
— not one of us lives for himself
— why do you judge your brother?
— we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
— not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way.
— if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love.
— we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.
— we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.
— God… grant you to be of the same mind with one another
Through these Words, the Lord’s Spirit would convict us to accept… love… forgive… understand… sacrifice… edify… help… and empathize. But what does the flesh want? To judge, disdain, rush, destroy, and pontificate. Congregants become enamored with their own philosophies—ostracizing any who do not comply with the minutia—and, BOOM, another denomination is born.
This thinking leads down a thorny path: in friendships, it brings estrangement; in marriage, divorce; and in church, yes, factions. I am embarrassed that the world can Wiki “Christian denominations” and find they must scroll down for five minutes.
I attend a Bible church without a set of its own distinctives: just Christ crucified for sinners—and the Scriptures brought to bear, unadulterated.
First, though, I am a Christ follower. And this week, He’s teaching me—through Romans 14.