In 1 Peter 2:5, Peter exhorts us to be living stones. We are to build upon what has been laid out before us to grow the church of the next generations. We are to be well founded in scripture and rely upon God for understanding.
In the Triumphal Entry, the Pharisees rebuked Jesus to have His disciples be quiet. The Pharisees were afraid that the loud ‘Hosanna’ coming from the crowd would be heard by the Romans, and there would be retribution for the seeming birth of a rebellion. Of course, many of the people in the crowd were thinking just that, unaware of where Jesus was headed. Jesus’ reply in Luke 19:40 was that if they were quiet, the stones would cry out.
Maybe these two references should not be merged, but since my brain is a little strange, I have to try.
Has God relied on causing stones to cry out in the past, literal or figurative stones? Five hundred years ago, Martin Luther became a figurative stone who cried out about what was happening in the church at that time. It spawned the Reformation. Yet, there was a period of almost 1500 years leading up to the Reformation that we don’t know much about. There are items in history books, some good and some bad, but the general health of the church is a mystery.
In the 500 years since the Reformation, it seems that no one has any thought of keeping a denomination intact in order to maintain a unity of direction. One splinter has become hundreds of splinters, each espousing that only they have the truly correct doctrine.
Then the most recent splinters within the last 100 years has been the evangelical, non-denominational groups. They thought, “Let’s go back to the Bible and not have any creeds, confessions, or catechisms. Those interpreted the Bible and there is a chance that they interpreted the Bible wrong.” The Baptists are loosely the same way. The problem with these is that as the founding preachers retire, the new preacher could interpret things differently. The followers of the original preacher get disenchanted and either splinter off or go back to the mainstream denominations.
Being a Presbyterian and a God and Country medal earning Eagle Scout, I learned how Presbyterians developed or adopted various interpretations (confessions) as clear statements of faith. The problem is two-fold. 1) There are too many statements of faith written in the language of the time from the Nicene Creed in 325 to the Confessions of 1983 after the UPCUSA and the PCUS united to form the PCUSA of today. Some scholars point to the confessions of 1967 as creating the most diversion within the church. So much that a task force was created to promote Peace, Unity, and Purity for the church (PUP). Although the PUP report has been out since 2001, there is less PUP now than ever before. 2) The reason for the lack of unity is that there is such a volume of confessions that when people are asked to be guided by the entire thing as a whole when they becoming ruling elders, they lie. Yes, I said the three letter word, L-I-E. They lie, because they never read the confessions. Now you have hundreds of beliefs under the same roof, each person disagrees with everyone else. As the PUP report was being digested in each church a pastor asked for my opinion. I said that I felt that Peace could never be attained, because Unity could never be restored. Too many people are ruling members of the church who have no idea what Purity is, but they still vote. This pastor couldn’t believe that I could have such a cynical opinion of the denomination. After all, when I introduced myself at the church as a new member, I said I was older than dirt and was Presbyterian before there was dirt. As for me, I read the confessions. I didn’t agree with everything, but agreed that the confessions as a whole could be used as a guide, but it was hard.
My reasons are simple. The Holy Catholic church that we confess to believing in the Apostle’s Creed is the unified church established by God of all true believers, regardless of denomination. But any denomination, fill in the blank here _____, was made by man. In the beginning, hopefully they had the guidance of the Bible and the Holy Spirit, but they were still human. Man is a sinful creature. When two men disagree, they either come to a compromise or they write a new confession giving two alternatives. Thus, purity is destroyed in both cases, through compromise or choosing from column A or B.
I started with the concept of living stones and it seems that I have veered from the path. Yet, have I? As individuals, we can become building blocks for God’s church by getting back to the basics of Holy Scriptures. We can do something novel. We can read the Bible and teach from it. We will find that God suggested to Moses that he was tired of the Israelites, but Moses talked Him out of destroying them (Exodus 32:9-13). In Jeremiah 18, God has Jeremiah visit a potter. When the potter didn’t like the pot, he started over using the same clay. God told Jeremiah that he didn’t need the people of Judah. He could start over. God could turn ‘stone’ into a living creature that would praise God.
Yes, we can read the Bible. We can give our testimonies. I mean that in the plural. We can talk of how God saved us, but also how God transforms us. I was reading A. W. Tozer this morning and he wrote that too many people join the church because they hear that they can be saved, but they can also ignore sacrificing their lifestyles. He was referring to the evangelical churches of the 1930s, 40s and 50s. The concept of repentance is gone. One of the reasons for the Presbyterian confessions of 1967 was that the numbers were declining and a new confession might attract the counter culture. It may have, but at what cost?
So, to tell our testimony we have two stories to tell, the salvation story and the story in progress of sanctification. We need to tell those stories and anchor those stories in the Bible in order to be living stones. Maybe well founded long-time Christians need to take an Alpha course to remind them that the basics of the Christian faith are what is important. All else is useless quarreling. We need to read James 4 and in 2 Timothy 2:23 when it comes to the quarrels.
Then the thought of Luke 19:40 comes to mind. At the end of the original Planet of the Apes movie, Charlton Heston says some foul language, but he gets his point across. This science fiction story proposes that this new planet is the aftermath of the humans screwing up our present planet. Will we screw up the interpretation of the Bible so severely that God will have to bring stones to life so that the Good News of Jesus’ Love and Sacrifice can be told to future generations? Do we have enough love for our neighbor so that God doesn’t have to take those steps? And when we show that love and evangelize to the next generations, will we show both edges of the sword, salvation is free, but repentance is costly? In greatly paraphrasing a C. S. Lewis quote, we struggle in this life, but when we get to the next life, we don’t see the struggle in our rearview mirror. All that we sacrificed to become more like Jesus was meaningless and was holding us back anyway.