In the world of evangelical Christianity there is a long list of forbidden words.

Starting with George Carlin's "Seven Words You Cant Say On TV," you can move out in progressively bigger circles that contain all the other cuss words, foul language, mean retorts and other assorted expressions that should never cross the lips of an upstanding Christian. And then there's one more. Ecumenical. Now, this wasn't always a no-no. About a hundred years back, the word simply meant, "of or pertaining to the habitable world, or to the Christian church throughout the world; universal." Nothing there that would indicate why this adjective has evolved into the boogieman it now is. A look at an on-line dictionary today brings up the following as one of the definitions: "Promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation." And therein, as they say, lies the tale. Although Jesus prayed at the Last Supper for unity among all his followers, and Paul later condemned the sectarianism that arose among the Corinthian believers, unity is the devilish concept behind the word ecumenical in the minds of many Christians. Why? Because "unity" is often defined as "compromise." I'm proud to say that I am one in Christ (although my actions don't always bear this out) with any brother or sister "whose fellowship is with the Father and his Son the Lord Jesus Christ." Though we often don't agree on this doctrine or that, those disagreements are not a biblical basis for denying fellowship. But compromise? No way. I will not compromise my beliefs. I know that the only way to the Father is through the Son, and that whosever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life. This is the foundation of my faith. This is what I cannot compromise. If another does not acknowledge Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world, Lord of lords, and King of kings ... then no Christian fellowship can or does exist between us, regardless of whether or not they claim the name Christian. Yet, "no compromise" isn't exclusivist. Consider the following, posted by a friend of mine on an Internet debate forum: "I don't believe that our unity should be based in anything except that we are sons and daughters of God in Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus longs for us all to be one in him. But that unity can never depend on any particular agreement of doctrines, because, let's face it, Paul, who knew more doctrine than any of us, confessed (1 Corinthians 13. 9), 'We know in part.' "If we know in part, unless by chance you and I happen to know the same part (which isn't likely, since you are a different part of the Body than I am, with different calling, function and gifts, including knowledge), we are never going to agree on everything. Nevertheless we can be perfect in unity, if the basis for that unity is not in how much we happen to agree, but in Who we belong to, and Who our Father is." One of the aspects of our ministry is to find the "common ground" that we, as Christians, stand upon. We are not looking for what separates us; rather we are

seeking what unites us. The answer, of course, is found in the quote above: Our unity is in Jesus Christ alone. John DeBrine of Songtime USA once said, "A spiritual Christian is one who, upon meeting another Christian, looks to see where they agree; a carnal Christian looks to see where they disagree." Arminius said it well centuries ago: "In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity." Obviously, the word "ecumenical" was sullied years ago when some denominations compromised the essentials of the faith for a false unity with non-Christians. But scripturally speaking, I don't think you or I can make a case that the essentials include how you were baptized, whether you speak in tongues or not, what Bible version you use, and so on. Although these may be important issues to you or me, they are not essentials over which we can separate. Again, this doesn't mean you have to attend a church that baptizes by sprinkling when you believe immersion is the proper method. This only means that despite your differences with brothers and sisters who "do it differently," there is still that underlying unity in Christ. You are all still part of His body. For many years I have described myself as "anti-denominational." I would rail about how unbiblical these man-made structures were, how they imposed a set of boxed rules on the people, how ... separatist they were, while totally missing the separatist log in my own eye. Yet I was only seeing part of the picture. Yes, there are plenty of denominations out there whose only reason for existing is to pull away from any and everyone who does not think the same way down to every little detail. In their pharisaical mindset, they view themselves as the keeper of the keys, as the one and only true church of Jesus Christ. Even so, there are many, many others who have coalesced around certain doctrines not because they view them as the only way, but because they see them as a comfortable method of worshipping God. Some churches only sing the old hymns; this is how they worship God. Others sing choruses; for them, this is how they worship. Some churches speak in tongues; others do not. Some utilize paraphrased Bible versions; others use only King James. It doesn't matter if believers gather together to worship the Lord in a way they feel comfortable. The rub comes when groups break unity with the Body over these issues. The Bible gives one followers of Jesus: how often we attend spend in prayer. We example - only one - of how the world will know we are by our love for each other. We don't prove it to the world by church or by how much money we give or by how many hours we show it by loving our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Today, far too many Christians expend all their energy pushing their own pet doctrines instead of working for the unity of the body that Jesus prayed for at the Last Supper, just hours before his betrayal and arrest. "I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me because of their testimony," Jesus prayed as His disciples listened. "My prayer for all of them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father, that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the

world will believe you sent me." Likewise, moments earlier Jesus told His disciples, "A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another." And again: "My command is this, love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that one lay down his life for his friends." This was our Savior's heartfelt plea to His Father in the hours leading up to Judas' entrance into the garden accompanied by a legion of Roman soldiers and contingent of temple guards, ready to betray the Lord with a kiss on the cheek. But note the verse following the turned his attention from Jesus' described as pride, says he will Jesus quickly refutes ("You will "new commandment" passage: Peter has already command for unity, and, in what could be lay down his life for the Lord, a boast that deny me three times!").

Christians today should work to fulfill Jesus' prayer for unity ... not emulate the actions of Judas by betraying Him. Instead of a united body of believers, the world sees a bickering, divided, selfrighteous multitude of groups that appear to care only for promoting doctrine and interpretation that fits squarely inside the particular box within which they have futilely attempted to place the Creator of the universe. Meanwhile, millions perish without a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, a burden which should be laid squarely at our feet because - as the body of Christ - we have failed to unify as brothers and sisters, a unity which would, according to Jesus' own words in the Gospel of John, enable the world to believe that He was sent by the Father. Now is the time to put an end to the fratricide that has so often marred our Christian witness. Now is the time to respond to Jesus' prayer to be a unified body of believers who love each other in Him. Remember these words of my friend: "There is only one basis for unity, our mutual membership in Christ. Any other basis for unity is not only false, but effectively denies the true basis."