The "one another" factor.
Want to spend some time in a complicated world of numbers? Try to do some research about American population demographics, especially studies about American religious preferences. Yes, for certain, there are organizations that specialize in this kind of data. Of course, disciphering their numbers requires advanced degrees in the mathematics of uncertainty. This is because who is and who isn't a Christian is one of those vague categories that begins the search in a cloud of questionable assumptions. Like many other contemporary cultural issues, It depends on who's dictionary is bring used.
Pew Research estimates that Christians represent seventy percent of our total population. This includes our evangelical brothers (25.4%), the mainline Protestants (14.7%), the Catholics (20.8%), the historically African-American Protestants (6.5%), and the rest, somewhere in the neighborhood of 3.4%. (see www.pewforum.org for a complete accounting of America's spiritual preferences). These numbers are referenced here for a very specific reason. And, it's a simple point I'm making with them. You see, seventy percent of our national population, if they are remotely on the same page, should be able to influence how the nation functions in just about any area of national life. Translate this further into components that my feeble math mind can grasp, it means that 70% of our sea to shining sea brethren should be able to settle the layers of racial tension that define so much of contemporary life. And, I'm not talking about a voting block or political action committee. This many Christians should be able to influence the world around us. Such a large degree of salt and light should change our relational dynamics.
Here's a surprise. Several months ago I was preaching in a Baptist church. During the message I mentioned, in passing, the "one another" passages of Scripture. After the service, a long-time church deacon thanked me for the reference to the fifty-nine "one another" passages in my morning sermon. He added that he had never heard of those passages. In more than fifty years of church membership, not to mention leadership, no one had ever spoken to him or the church about Christian inter-personal behavior. Honestly, it was a surprising wake-up call issued to me in a traditional, long standing Southern Baptist church. They had never studied the "one another" passages of God's Word. Maybe that was the reason they had birthed so many church starts. They hadn't learned how to get along.
It's probably a simplism derived from my interpretation skills, but the "one another" passages of the New Testament should be God's answer for the racial tensions so prevalent in our nation today. They are not complicated spiritual formulas requiring scholarly translation and interpretation. They are, in fact, simple biblical principles that the people of the New Testament era easily comprehended and should be part and parcel of church life today. Of course, there are many replications and interpretations of these very plain Scripture passages. Having examined many of them may I suggest the Infographic by Jeffrey Kranz at www.overviewbible.com. as a basic primer in the "one another" passages? You may access that site by clicking here.
So, yes, these fifty-nine Scripture verses can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Perhaps my own prejudices and biases sway my leanings as I seek biblical answers to the racial tension that divides even our nation's religious populations. In my own mind, racial stress is the most critical spiritual issue facing our nation and God's church. With all of our conferences and meetings, even our most fervent pulpit challenges, Sunday morning remains perhaps the most segregated hour on the American calendar. We humans have debated this crisis for more than fifty years and still find ourselves at a distance from "one another". For many months I have been burdened by the racial separation that divides the nation and God's church. Each day I am drawn to Christ's prayer in John 17, the high priestly prayer he offered before his passion.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may
be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have
given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and
you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you
sent me and loved them even as you loved me. John 17:20-23, ESV
Additionally, the Apostle Paul affirmed the truth of oneness in the letter he penned to the churches of Galatia---
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and
female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 3:28, ESV
How touching and profound that the Lord prayed for his future followers to be one! In the same way, Paul's conclusion about life in the diverse first century world registers an expectation of oneness. How sad that 2000 years later we are not! I'm wondering when we forgot the "one another" passages of Scripture, God's Word to establish our oneness. it reminds me of how selective we've become in applying God's Word, or how disobedience has defined us.
Jesus drew a conclusion about our "one another" relationships. He said, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35, ESV). Perhaps this racial divide can explain why our nation is suddenly so allergic to the church, the message of the Gospel, and the mission Jesus assigned to us. Maybe it's our omission of the "one another" truths and our reluctance to obey them.
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