The fellowship of Christ’s religion
By Fr. Jonathan Filkins
We begin to understand the unfolding of the Christian faith is much like the petals of the rose. At first, we see the tightly encased bud, and sense the portent of something marvelous to behold. Slowly, the outer petals open, revealing a glorious interior. No wonder so many are enraptured by a rose’s beauty.
However, unlike a rose, Christianity does not fade over time. The majesty and glory remain constant. We have been promised the beauty of an everlasting life, through Jesus Christ. Yet, like the garden our faith requires continuous nurturing and tending to keep all of the unwanted scabrous, cadaverous evils at bay. Not always an easy task.
Like the rose, there are many types and varieties of the Christian Faith. According to the World Christian database there are more than eleven-hundred distinct denominations; with others reporting somewhere north of thirty thousand. Regardless of the disparity, there are a significant number of Christians who practice, and hold, different beliefs. Even when they got around to calling Christ’s followers “Christians,” at the end of the first century, it was already clear there were going to be differences. This was brought to the fore by the Seven Great Ecumenical Councils and most particularly the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. It was in these Councils that significant differences were set aside and the unity of Christ’s religion truly begun.
Since the Reformation, numerous groups have spun off and professed that their faith is the only “true” faith. Human corruptions have played a significant part, as well as attendant egos. Ask a person why they go to this church, or that, and you will receive some intriguing answers. “My family has always gone to my church,” or “I am comfortable there,” or “I just love the building.” Each has its own validity, but misses the point. Instead consider, “I belong to XYZ church because they espouse my most closely held beliefs about God, through Jesus Christ.”
This is very much an “in your face statement,” and reflects a certain accuracy. The great danger is in espousing our Christian denominations as being superior to others. Rather than wallow in our differences, we would be better served by acknowledging our commonalities. By the very definition of “Christianity” we have a common belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ. Further, we hold that, as the Son of God, he died for our sins and showed us the way to everlasting salvation.
We also believe what he taught to his followers…and us. However, time and humankind have seemingly been bent upon different interpretations. In all of the nuanced panoply of theological noise, the commonality of our beliefs has been obscured. Now two millennia distant, and some of what may be considered as irrelevant, has given us the license to obfuscate Christ’s message. Indeed, we seem to emphasize the changes to Christianity, rather than the commonality.
The fellowship of Christ’s religion has nothing to do with our differences. It is all about our coming together as a Christian whole. Someone expresses a need, or someone is lost without Christ, or someone has an idea to make the world a better place, each has no particular need for a denomination. What they seek is Christian fellowship; whether it be financial, guidance, support, or any other of the many facets of the myriad of Christian values.
Let us remember, it is only in our fellowship as one, with the One, where we answer the call, “Follow me.”