The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a sharing in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a sharing in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. …
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17, 31-33 (NRSV)
There is a saying that you can please some of the people some of the time, but never all of the people all of the time. What was true in the early church is still true today. Jesus followers come from all kinds of backgrounds and traditions, and sometimes we allow the non-essential traditions to separate us.
Even though there are many different Christian traditions, in Christ we are still one body. That’s a hard truth for us to take sometimes.
In the apostle Paul’s day there were Jesus followers who came from the Jewish tradition and largely followed Jewish law. There were also Jesus followers who were Roman or Greek, who came from traditions that had pantheons of gods and had never heard of the Jewish law. This made it awkward for believers to agree on how to live and worship and even on how to share meals.
While ecumenism is becoming more of a reality today, unity among Jesus followers is still a difficult goal even within Christian traditions. Christian believers still disagree on which traditions are essential, which ones aren’t, and in how we were meant to interpret Scripture.
One big caution here is that unity cannot be brought about by compromising or watering down the Gospel, (which turns ecumenism into syncretism, which is NOT about Christian unity, but about legitimizing and combining any old philosophical system or so called religion and calling it “Christian”) so there must be absolutes. The statements in the Apostle’s Creed are based upon Scripture, and those statements define the essentials of Christian belief.
The Body and Blood of Christ, given for us, as Jesus followers, makes us one. But how do we live out that unity even when there is so much we cannot agree upon?
For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NRSV)
We as Christians have many traditions that bring depth and meaning to our worship and to our life in Christ. Yet which of our traditions bring glory to God in all things, and which of our traditions put unnecessary burdens upon other Jesus followers? How do we maintain both our own identity and traditions as well as promote unity among believers at the same time?