“In Full Communion”

Why would anybody want to even think about joining the Christian church with so much animosity going on between the different denominations? We can’t agree on how we are supposed to love God and serve our neighbors. We can’t agree on how we are supposed to live our lives. We can’t even agree that everybody who is baptized can take communion. We don’t even call it “communion” in all churches. In some it is called “the Lord’s Supper”.

I’m going to use the word “communion” here because of the full meaning of the word. Not only does it refer to unity with God, but it also refers to the Body of Christ, which is the membership. The Body is made up of every person who believes in Jesus as the Son of God. In communion we are symbolically all eating at the same table as a family.

There is a concept that some churches are “in full communion” with other churches. In the Catholic Church, for example, only a few other denomination’s members can take communion at a Catholic church. Not Episcopal or Lutheran or Baptist or Methodist or Jehovah’s Witness, for example. In the Orthodox Church there are similar rules. This is really odd to me, since Jesus didn’t make up any rules as to who could take communion.

I can understand if they feel like they need to deny communion to people who aren’t baptized. I personally think everybody who feels called to the table should get communion, but I’ve already written about that. But going with the basic premise of baptism as being a public declaration of membership into the Body of Christ, then I don’t understand why a different part of the Body would say that another part isn’t included.

And there are other rules. Some say women should dress modestly and cover their hair. Some say that it doesn’t matter. Some say that it is OK to drink, while some say drinking will lead you to hell. Some discourage their members from questioning anything. Some allow questions but they are short on answers. Some are not allowed to vote, while some use their ability to vote to lobby for the social causes they feel are in line with their faith. Some are vegetarian as part of their observance. Some are heavy on the meat casseroles for potlucks.

Each different church has its own way of doing things and we end up focusing on the differences rather than the unity. And sadly, these divisions are what people who aren’t Christians see the most of. Christians are rude and divisive and judgmental and condescending with other Christians. They are exactly the same to non-Christians. Who would want to join such a dysfunctional family?

I remember when I was working at a craft store in Chattanooga and a coworker said that I should go to her church. I told her that I already went to church. She said she knew that, but she thought there was better preaching at her church. By “better” I got the idea that she meant “more accurate”. As if God can only be found in one place. As if God’s Word can only be found in a few locations at a time.

I went with another friend to her church one day and a lady in the pew invited me to become a member there. When I told her that I already had a church home I got the same kind of reply. It was that I needed to go to this particular church because the Word was spoken more clearly there.

God is so much bigger than that. When we reduce God to only being able to get his message across in only one denomination or only one building, we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. We are reducing God to our size, and forgetting how infinite God is. We are playing petty politics with God.

I’m embarrassed by Christians all the time, and I am Christian. These women were being rude and exclusive to me, and I’m in the club. Imagine how non-Christians would feel. Imagine how they feel when they see a person waving a sign saying that God hates anybody. Imagine how they feel when they hear a Baptist say that Catholics aren’t Christian. Imagine how they feel when they see how one church has rules on how to live life that another church laughs at. They have no idea what being “Christian” means, and I’m starting to think that we don’t either.

There are so many different denominations that the faith looks schizophrenic. Sure, we are all different members in the same body, but this body has a bad case of a seizure disorder. It does not work as one. We aren’t going anywhere. We are fighting against ourselves.

It is as if there is a three-legged race going on and the two people are trying to go different directions. But this race is divided up between a hundred different denominations. And even different parishes within denominations have the opinion that they have it right and the others don’t. If you say that your parish or your denomination has it right and the others don’t and just need to catch up with you, you are part of the problem.

What did Jesus say? Love. If it isn’t loving and kind, don’t do it. And I don’t mean “telling others they are wrong so they can get back on the right track” kind of loving. Remember the verse about the speck and the plank? That isn’t love. “Do unto others” is a good start. If you don’t want other people bossing you around, they probably don’t want it either, so don’t do it.

Let’s consider all those different rules the different denominations have about how to live your life. Concerning what to eat, whether to drink alcohol or not, how modestly to dress, or how to style your hair, just measure it against Jesus words. Does it show love? If you need to refrain from eating meat or you need to cover your hair to remind yourself to love your God and your neighbor, do it. But if these actions cause a division between the two of you, don’t. But then remember that none of this really matters. None of this has anything to do with what Jesus wants us do.

Forget about world peace. We need to get our own selves together first.