Flashback to my primary school days in Redemption Model Primary School, I was the Saul of the Anglican brethren. Why say Saul? Yes… Saul because I would ignorantly stand to fight anyone who ever messes up with the mention of Anglican or CMS as we were popularly referred to by other folks especially the Roman Catholics. In my worst days, I would push into the neck of Catholics and tear their beads; it was fun watching those beads slide out of its rope, rolling uncontrollably on the floor of the class room! My Anglican and other protestant fans would cheer me up; some would even join me in the fight against the dominant Roman Catholic ideologies that seemed prevalent in our class room then. I was simply a little Saul and I thought I was fighting the good fight of faith. The Catholics in a way contributed to the awakening of that “thuggish” part of me, I was a quiet boy but if I acted under the influence of any force then, I’d call it the force of hatred. Wasn’t the same the problem of Saul? He was fighting for the sake of hatred thinking he was fighting for God. Isn’t that the same with what Boko Haram is doing today? What did the Roman Catholics did at that time that made me bitter? They said any person who tampers with those beads will be dead by night and I knew it was bunch of lies, I knew it wouldn’t happen but why should I go on with it?
To this day, the fight has continued among our Children. Haven’t you witnessed the Block Rosary Kids and their neighboring ACM branches exchanging words and attacking each other’s doctrines? Haven’t you heard from the Roman Catholics that their denomination is that ark of salvation just like Noah’s ark? Haven’t you heard from Anglicans and other Protestants that the Roman Catholics are all hell bound because they allegedly worship Virgin Mary, Relics of the Saints and Images? Haven’t you heard from Baptists and their similar denominations saying that all kids baptized by sprinkling are all going to hell? That’s a long list to mention. Against all odds is that really what Jesus dies for? That a son stands against his father and a mother against her daughter? Many would say yes but that is bunch of lies. On this note even common sense disagrees with it. Jesus made such statement, I agree but he never meant that brothers would stand against each other with respect to the brotherhood we have found in Christ. Isn’t every believer one in Christ?
All those while I had fought with Roman Catholics I didn’t know Jesus, I have actually encountered him on different cases but I never knew him, I never had a relationship with him and I wasn’t even aware that one was supposed to have a personal relationship with Jesus. There are still lots of denominational ambassadors who are yet to know Jesus and it keeps me wondering if the Church has really thought us well. We busy our church members with sentiments and bias “ideas” concerning what the Church is. We burden them to fight for denominations just as Saul would fight for Judaism. Didn’t Saul stop his fight when he encountered Jesus? Didn’t he change his name because he wasn’t proud of all the fights done under the “Saul” brand?
As an Anglican, I have come to love my Roman Catholic and other Protestant counterparts. I have come to really understand what the via medium nature of the Church stands for, I have come to understand that the Anglican church is bridge that closes the gap that separates Roman Catholics and Protestants and more still I have come to realize that Jesus isn’t coming again for the Roman Catholics or Protestants but for people who are watched in the blood of the lamb.
It began by understanding the grace of God and its concept. It was a phrase that made the difference. I saw that “anyone” who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. Who is anyone? It is the Roman Catholics, the Protestants; the water sprinkled Christians, the Sabbath day Christians, the baptized Christians and the un-baptized Christians. Anyone can be saved just by believing and calling on the name of the Lord. Just as we are diversified by our cultures, traditions, color, race and tongue, we are all united in Jesus Christ. It doesn’t matter what else you do… If you believe in Jesus and call upon his name in absolute trust, YOU SHALL BE SAVED.
These days, I still preach and teach against some prevalent doctrines found in some of our churches. I don’t do that because I want to add numbers to my church, I don’t do that because I want to fight any church, I do it having a different goal and mindset… I do it because I want believers to live a victorious life! Some believes and false doctrines can only limit a Christian’s understanding of who God is and his freedom towards approaching God. I don’t fight with sword anymore; I fight with the word of God.
Tolerance therefore is needed, the church ought to champion the cause for unity in diversity, and the church must stop raising armies for the building and start raising God’s armies. This doesn’t mean we neglect our traditions and organizational structures, this doesn’t mean we throw our denominational identity into the garbage, this doesn’t mean we ignore the fallacies and unbiblical dogmas prevalent in some churches, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t warn our members towards accepting false doctrines but it simply means recognizing that we too don’t have the perfect doctrine. The Church is moving to perfection and we ought to pray for that. Church unity does not mean changing our names and merging with other denominations, it means recognizing each other as one body and co-heirs of the inheritance we have in Christ. This is the only way we can raise Pauls of this generation and not Sauls.
The ignorant fellow fights for denominations and its recognition, the wise fights for the body of Christ. The ignorant fight with the sword like Peter did in the past. The wise fight with the word of God (through prayers and seasoned speech). We must remember that this is not a carnal fight but a spiritual fight between light and darkness and not between light and light. We have one common enemy, the devil.
Unhealthy competitions are beginning to loom around the corner. Soul winning has been redefined as winning another Christian into your own fold while it should be winning the un-churched into the church. Today, we are competing with buildings and investments, we are competing with populations and we have even climbed the pulpit to pull people down by saying things we ought not to say, by condemning Churches and its leaders. We keep complaining that people left our Church for another church but we’ve not sat down to ask ourselves why. It is because we left some certain things undone, we didn’t speak that which we ought to speak; rather we allowed politics to become the order of service. It is important we reach out to people with the message of the bible irrespective of her denominational orientation, it is important we place value on our churches but that doesn’t mean placing less value on other Christians who are of different denomination. It is even much more important that we listen to people with open mind even if they tend to say what our denominations aren’t saying. I don’t tell people reason why they must belong to my church, I tell them reasons for become Christians, reasons to have personal relationship with Jesus.
Finally, when we run our Church events let’s do so for the sake of winning souls to the kingdom of God and not for the for the sake of engaging in competition with another. Let’s not ignore the power of the Holy Spirit in making us relevant. Show me a church that is conscious of the work of the Holy Spirit, then that is a Church that against all odds will continue to march on. YES… The Church is ONE, the Church is marching on and THE GATES OF HELL SHALL NOT PREVAIL AGAINST IT.
May our speech to others and about others be “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Eph. 4:29).