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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 example - only one - of how the world will know we are
followers of Jesus: by our love for each other. We don't prove it to the world by
how often we attend church or by how much money we give or by how many hours we
spend in prayer. 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 "new commandment" passage: Peter has already
turned his attention from Jesus' command for unity, and, in what could be
described as pride, says he will lay down his life for the Lord, a boast that
Jesus quickly refutes ("You will 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, self-
righteous 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."