Christians seems to be their own worst enemy when it comes to unity. Most churches, Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, claim to be “catholic” in the sense of being universal. In fact, we all recite that part of the Nicene Creed every week or so, you know, “we believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” Seems to me that many, if not most denominations give the lie to this call to unity.
Perhaps it is basic human nature to wish to organize into tribes; groups of “us” as against “them.” Where “them” is usually everyone who does not meet the precise criteria for being one of “us.” I’ve no objection to people aligning themselves in communities of like-minded folks. The problem is the hypocrisy of the continual pleas for Christian unity, usually loudest from those who might be the biggest stumbling blocks to said unity. That is, it’s unity, so long as you do things our way and no other way.
Two examples, one small, one large. The small one was at a Baptist church that we went to one recent Sunday. Lovely community; there was energy and the Spirit seemed to be in the assembly. When we looked over their literature, we discovered that this particular church recognized only full-immersion baptism. On the logical presumption that, a) “baptism” literally means “a dipping under”, or “immersion”, and b) that is how Jesus Himself is portrayed as having been baptized in the River Jordan. Those who were baptized by any other method would need to be re-baptized in order to join this church.
The large example is the exclusivity of the communion table in the Roman Catholic Church. Only those baptized and confirmed in the Roman Church, and not in mortal sin, may take communion. Needless to say, this is a large stumbling block for those who are not Catholics and don’t wish to become Catholic in order to share in the body and blood of Christ.
The point is that communion table hospitality, and the nature of baptism are tied together by the Holy Spirit – which is how any of these saving acts take place. The rules and requirements of men may be inspired by the Holy Spirit, but without the Spirit then baptism is just a bath, and communion is just a dry wafer. When a sinner, which is any and all of us, is turned away from receiving His body and His blood – every baptized person’s right regardless of denomination or how the baptism was performed – Jesus must weep.
It’s about God and His Son and the Holy Spirit; it’s got nothing to do with our intricate rules and dogmas that can too-easily become fences between Christians.