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Unity and Division in the Church Part 2 - Division

As much as the Reformation is the rediscovery of salvation by faith through grace, it is also the story of how Christianity became increasingly fragmented. By the time the Reformation came about, the Church had effectively been split into four wings: the Byzantine Orthodox, the Roman Catholics, the Nestorians (north-eastern Asian churches) and the Jacobites (Monophysite south-eastern Asian churches). The Nestorians and the Jacobites were in the process of being wiped out by pagan and Muslim powers in the east, so that to this day we have pretty much only the Armenian Orthodox and Thomasites in India representing the Nestorians and the Copts and Assyrian Orthodox representing the Jacobites. The Roman Catholic church birthed the Protestant church by ejecting those whom she disagreed with and who would not submit to her rule without questioning it.

As the Protestant reformation movement progressed, the main leaders assembled in Marburg, Hessen, in October of 1529. Called together by Prince-Elector Philip of Hesse, these men were asked to draft a joint statement to unify the diverse theology of the Protestants, so creating a united front against Emperor Charles V and the Roman Catholic church. What got off to a good start came to a screeching halt when Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli of Zurich could not agree on the meaning of the Lord’s Supper. The sticking point of the argument was that Zwingli saw the Lord’s Supper as merely symbolic, whereas Luther believed Christ was actually present in the bread and the cup. The argument got so heated, that Luther (being Luther) is said to have carved the word EST (Latin for “is”) into the table with his pen knife. The two great men could not get over this point and so the attempt at unifying the Protestant movement failed. This failure led to more and more divisions within the Protestant movement, eroding a central authority and bringing us to this day where one cannot use a term to define Christian movements without a qualifier.

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Pondering the Master

Recently we sang a new song at our church titled “Reckless Love”1. It is also getting a lot of air-time on various Christian radio streams that I have been listening to with radio announcers exclaiming how much they love the song. However, as we went through that song for the first time, something about the word “reckless” didn’t sit right with me. Being a writer, words to me are more than mere dictionary meanings. They are symbols: they convey emotions, they create understanding, they express reality. I couldn’t quite understand why the word “reckless” applied to God’s amazing love would stick in my craw. So, I went looking.

Perhaps I misunderstood the denotation of “reckless”, so I looked it up in several dictionaries. “Reckless” means, “marked by lack of proper caution, careless of consequences, irresponsible”2 or “heedless, mindless”3. Even a brief study of Scripture makes it clear that these adjectives do not describe God’s love in the least. How can a love that chose its objects before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6) be considered irresponsible, heedless or mindless? How can a love that looks through the ages and sees the failures and costs of realizing that love and chooses to pay them anyway (Rev. 13:8 – NIV) be careless of consequences? And how can love that plans (Eph. 1:9-10) be considered not having proper caution? God’s love is none of these!

Better words to describe God’s love are “lavish”, “astounding”, “amazing”, “wonderful”4. It is truly a “mindful” love, and even “calculating” (though that word feels cold). God is leading me to ponder the concept of love more these days and I cannot seem to wrap my mind around it. Truly, divine wisdom is necessary to “comprehend … what is the length, width, height and depth of God’s love and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge” (Eph. 3:18-19 – HCSB). And in listening to this song, the word I think the authors were really looking for is “lavish”. So, let us bask in that lavish, astounding, wonderful, contra-conditional, ever-giving love.

Image Credit: Forgiven Photography | Lightstock

From Wolfhawke’s Reading List

Michael Crichton

New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

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