John 17: 21a May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. (HCSB)
A Proposal For Unity Part 7: Freedom to Grow
Both as individuals and as congregations, Christians must give each other the freedom to learn and to grow.
In Thomas Campbell's twelfth proposition
, he laid out what he believed to be the way "to the highest state of perfection and purity of the church upon earth."
To Campbell the way seemed simple: accept everyone who meets the biblical requirements for conversion, and who continue to show evidence of their conversion commitment; and lead the church exactly according to the teachings and pattern of the New Testament church. The fallacy implicit in that approach is the assumption that sincere people under the lordship of Jesus would actually come to agreement upon every detail of that teaching and pattern. The impact of that fallacy is painfully evident in the divided church today.
It is evident that Christian unity will not be attained by calling all believers to immediate and perfect agreement on all subjects. Instead, the path to unity must accommodate sincere differences of understanding. These differences must be explicitly permitted and protected, rather than being rejected and purged. The path to truth is not a straight line. Not all people travel at the same rate, and not all learn truths in the same sequence. The church must be a safe place for a person to change his or her mind, and perhaps to change it back again. Without that safety, real search for truth does not occur. Instead, people seek to comply with the norms of the group, whether those norms are true or not. Errors of the group go unchallenged and even unexamined. Both the truths and the errors of the group become calcified. Real learning is blocked, and unity is thwarted. Instead, factions form, drawing battle lines over every difference.
So, here is the seventh proposal for unity:
Proposal #7: Both as individuals and as congregations, Christians must give each other the freedom to learn and to grow. It is the duty of church leaders to make the local congregation a safe place for people to grow in their understanding truth, recognizing that this growth does not always occur at a steady pace, nor always in a straight line. Likewise, relationships between congregations must accommodate differences in understanding as each community matures in its knowledge of the Word. Only those understandings that are essential to conversion may be held as prerequisites for Christian fellowship.
Labels: Proposal for Unity