Sometimes I look at the church today and wonder how we ever got to be where we are. For instance, Jesus died without a penny to his name. How did the church, and the people in them, ever come to care so much for material things and money in particular (with buildings and property not a far behind)?
Jesus made a point of reaching out to those who were shunned by society and culture around them. How did the church, and the people in them, ever come to be a collection of “the right kind of people” with hearts so far from the people they seek to exclude?
Jesus clearly had no use or desire for earthly power, telling Pilate in no uncertain terms “his kingdom was not of this world.” How did the church, and the people in them, ever come to be so concerned with obtaining, keeping, and yielding power?
Jesus so clearly prayed that his church would be one, and taught that in fact this unworldly love for each other would be how people would know that God really did sent Jesus. How did the church ever come to be so splintered and divided, and how does it continue to divide today and think it is being faithful to Jesus?
This, I think, is the question Paul is asking. We live in a day when so many people have come to see choice as their right and privilege, another form our society’s larger sense of entitlement. Perhaps it music—there are so many choices in music now. Classic hymns, new hymns, older praise music, newer praise music, folk music, organ music, a full band, and the list just goes on and on. Many people come to expect the music that is just right for them. Perhaps it is styles of worship; wearing a suit and tie to church, wearing shorts and a t-shirt to church, using a formal liturgy, using informal liturgy, again, people expect the service style to be a perfect fit. Perhaps it is church size, or location, programs offered.
Perhaps it is theologies. There are so many different theologies out there right now; instead of realizing none of us are ever going to agree on everything, people look for the theology that best fits their individual outlook. If we expected our spouse to agree with us on everything, very few of us would stay married. I think theology is probably the number one reason churches split.
When we get to heaven, we're going to find we are worshipping with many of the same people we would not worship with on earth. There is, and only ever will be, one Church with one foundation. That foundation is Jesus Christ the Lord. That we who claim to be his followers have done such a poor job of living that basic truth must surely break the heart of God, causing him inestimable grief and sorrow.