God honors those who seek him with their whole heart. Perhaps so should we.
Being a believer in the God of the Bible presents a primary challenge that has eluded the Body of Messiah over the centuries since he walked this earth: unity. Those who claim to believe in Messiah and abide within the dictates of the Bible have been marginalized in society, and yet splintered and at war with each other at times.
Our struggles among ourselves are typically centered on issues of doctrine: what is considered orthodoxy and what is considered heretical. This is nothing new, as the Bible is filled with examples of individuals and groups who have separated and fought with each other within the overall Hebraic worldview and the Judaic roots of our faith.
In the days of Yeshua and the early believers, there were many factions of the faith, notably between the Samaritans and the Jews of Judea. When Yeshua met the woman at the well, she stated one of those doctrinal differences evident at that time:
John 4:20 – “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem.”
Additionally, famous within the “orthodox” Judaism of the day, another difference was demonstrated by the beliefs of the Sadducees and Pharisees. The apostle Paul even used these differences in a ploy to defend himself before their tribunal.
Acts 23:6-8 – When Paul realized that one part of them were Sadducees and the other part were Pharisees, he cried out in the Sanhedrin, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am being judged because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead! ” When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. For the Sadducees say there is no resurrection, and neither angel nor spirit, but the Pharisees affirm them all.
Paul repeatedly urged for unity and oneness among the faithful congregations to who he wrote his epistles:
- Ephesians 4:1-4 – Therefore I, the prisoner in Yahweh, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope at your calling –
- Colossians 3:12-15 – Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as Yahweh has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful.
So why is this so hard to achieve? How is it that those who claim to believe in Messiah are still so fractured and splintered among thousands of denominations today? I suggest it may have to do largely with a lack of compassion. In recently reading a section of Israel’s history, I was struck by one sentiment that was expressed by the writer of 2 Chronicles in relation to the following of the Torah.
2 Chronicles 30:16-20 – [The priests] stood at their prescribed posts, according to the law of Moses, the man of God. The priests splattered the blood received from the Levites, for there were many in the assembly who had not consecrated themselves, and so the Levites were in charge of slaughtering the Passover lambs for every unclean person to consecrate the lambs to Yahweh. A large number of the people – many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun – were ritually unclean, yet they had eaten the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah had interceded for them, saying, “May the good Yahweh provide atonement on behalf of whoever sets his whole heart on seeking God, Yahweh, the God of his ancestors, even though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary.” So Yahweh heard Hezekiah and healed the people.
The people had failed to obey every little detail of the Torah in relation to the purification rite, but Hezekiah recognized that their hearts were in the right place, and they were acting with the best of intentions, so he interceded for them. And the text says that God heard that prayer and healed or reconciled the people to himself.
Perhaps if, like Hezekiah, we did less judgment and more intercession on behalf of those whose doctrine may not line up 100% with our own, we may provide more occasions for oneness and unity as believers in the one God of the Bible. This is due to the fact that intercession on behalf of others stems from a heart of compassion, and compassion and mercy are the defining characteristics of Yahweh himself.
Exodus 34:6 – Yahweh passed in front of [Moses] and proclaimed: Yahweh – Yahweh is a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love and truth,
When we exhibit compassion towards all others, not just in the context of helping the downtrodden and poor of society but extending compassion towards others who believe in the Bible but still may not agree with us, we open up opportunities for communication and dialogue, dialogue that can enlighten and enrich. Perhaps we can ask God for hearts like Priscila and Aquila.
Acts 18:24-26 – Now a Jew named Apollos, a native Alexandrian, an eloquent man who was competent in the use of the Scriptures, arrived in Ephesus. He had been instructed in the way of Yahweh; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately about Yeshua, although he knew only John’s baptism. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. After Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained the way of God to him more accurately.
Recognizing that Apollos’ heart was in the right place, Priscilla and Aquila were moved to openly discuss doctrine with Apollos to help him understand “the way of God more accurately.” Of course, we all may think we have the most accurate understanding of God’s word. But if we are truly humble and realize that none of us have all the answers, we should keep at least a small door open to improving our own understanding of God’s word “more accurately.” Perhaps, when we focus less on the letter of the law and more on the hearts that are truly seeking the God of the Bible, we may be more successful in attuning ourselves to that same passion and building bridges to unity in the process.
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