The One Thing All Christians Should Agree On:
Little Christs, Church Unity, and a Lesson in Christology
I heard someone in an argument say, “If there is one thing all Christians should agree on, it’s that abortion is wrong.” Now I quite agree that abortion is wrong, and I tend to seriously question someone who calls himself a Christian and supports abortion. They are pretty antithetical ideas. All the way from the beginning, Adam and Eve were told to “multiply.” They weren’t told, “Kill your kids if they’re inconvenient.”
Sorry, was I a little sarcastic there? I tend to think murdering children is a big deal.
But I don’t want to talk about abortion right now. I want to talk about the idea of Church unity, because as impassioned as I am about the abortion issue, it is not and should not be the central point of my faith.
Abortion isn’t the one thing all Christians should agree on. The one thing all Christians should agree on is Jesus.
Of course, in our relativistic culture, “agreeing on Jesus” can mean a lot of different things… so what do I mean? What things must we agree on about Jesus? How does the church agree on a man so polarizing? What are the non-negotiables that one must adhere to in order to contribute to the “oneness” of the church?
I’ve broken it up into three doctrines relating to Jesus that, I think, cannot be denied in order to call oneself a member of the catholic (small c, meaning universal) church. There are probably others to include, but these are the basics. These at least start to explain the person and work of Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus’s Sacrifice on the Cross was Sufficient
Christ’s atoning work (covering of sins) was sufficient to save men from the penalty of their sins, which is death. If you don’t believe that His work on the cross was sufficient, you are saying there is something more you need to do in order to be saved. This flies in the face of what Paul said in his letters to the early church. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone; there can be no other option. Arguments about how faith and works interact are justified. Arguments about the extent of his atonement are fair. Arguments about the sufficiency of his sacrifice have no place.
We can disagree over how it works, why it works, and even when it works, but we still must be unified around the factthat it works.
Jesus is the God-Man
Jesus is the only person to walk this earth to be both fully God and fully man. The fact of Jesus’s two complete natures, in one person, that don’t mix, change, divide, or separate took almost 500 years for the church to agree upon. There were 6 major church councils held in order to solidify this single fact: Jesus is the God-Man.
You don’t have to understand it, you don’t have to be able to explain it, you don’t have to be able to list the church councils and the heresies they condemned, but you do have to affirm it. If Jesus wasn’t fully God, his sacrifice on the cross was insufficient to pay for our sins. His sacrifice would not have been perfect, because only God is perfect. If Jesus wasn’t fully man, his sacrifice on the cross was insufficient to pay for our sins. His sacrifice wouldn’t have been an actual sacrifice, because it would have been a drama performance, a fake death. He was really God and he really died. That is the glorious mystery. Praise him for it. Unite around him for it.
Jesus Loves You
The motivation behind Jesus’s work on the cross was his, and the Father’s, love for the world. You can make arguments about what the goal was, you can quibble over the meaning of “the world,” and you can disagree about just how much he loves the elect verses the non-elect, but you cannot deny the simple fact that we all learned in Sunday school class. “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the bible tells me so.”
It is this man, the loving God-Man whose sacrifice was sufficient, that we are to unite around. It is Jesus’s person and work that makes us what we are: Christians.
The word “Christians” sums it up nicely. The word was first used to describe the followers of Jesus at Antioch (Acts 11). It literally meant “little Christ.” It was probably used with a sneer in order to cut down the disciples, much as we use the phrase “holier than thou” when describing someone who convicts us with their behavior.
Jesus was the promised messiah, the savior, the anointed one, the Christ. His followers are called “little christs” because we are just little replicas or copies of the original.
Jesus is the God-Man we follow. Jesus is the God-Man we trust. Jesus is the God-Man we copy. If we are not united around Jesus, we are not the church. Without Jesus directing us, we are just another group of activists trying, in vain, to make the world a better place.
Unity alone isn’t enough. We must be unified around Christ.
I am reminded of another time in human history when we were truly united around one common goal, but that goal was something other than God. It was the goal of reaching god by our own efforts. In Genesis 11, mankind was united in one common goal: building a city and a tower. God was not pleased. He scattered the builders and confused their languages. The tower of babel is an apt warning for the church.
Around what will we unite?
Abortion is a horrible evil, but it is only a faint glimmer of the evil that can be achieved through a Christ-less church. Don’t let your issues replace your faith.
Jesus is the one thing all Christians should agree on. Without Him, there is simply hell to pay, and I mean that in the most literal sense there is.