By Seth Stiles

November 1st is Reformation Day (aka All Saints Day). But, I am not going to talk about that day today. Instead, I am going to give us a brief reminder of the importance of Christian unity in the wake of 500 years of church history since the Reformation. Over the past 500 years, Protestantism (Christians who are non-Catholic) has become very diverse to say the least. This is true both in doctrine and in denominations. From this, many questions and confusions arise. Worst of all, criticism, anger, pride and lack of love across the body of Christ has occurred. So, let's step back a remind ourselves of (1) our Lord Jesus' call to love and unity among the body of Christ and (2) some of the essential doctrines we all agree on.

First, our Lord Jesus' call to love and unity: I will simply quote a couple of scriptures from the Lord's mouth himself - "A new command I give to you, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you love one another (Jn. 13:34-35). "Father, I ask this for those who will believe in my through (the apostles) word. That they may be one, just as you Father are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me" (Jn. 17:20-21). I believe the love Jesus is talking about here is not just care for one another in times of pain, sorrow or persecution. I believe this agape (God-like love) love applies to the fundamental doctrinal and lifestyle unity we all share in as Christians - "the called out ones" who are separated and different from the world due to our common salvation (Jude 3). Need I say more?

Second, the essential doctrines we agree on: The early church put a list together of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. It is called the Keyrgma. Most scholars feel there are about ten common doctrines and practices on this list. Of these ten, the most central include: (1) the coming of Jesus Christ fulfills many of the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament and inaugurates the Kingdom of God on earth (2) Jesus' life, death and resurrection enables the forgiveness of sin (3) Salvation demands a response of repentance complete trust in the gospel (4) The presence of the Holy Spirit signified His presence with us, enables salvation, empowers for ministry and guarantees ones final salvation (5) Jesus will return a second time for judgement and the restoration of all things. I might take liberty to add to this the key fruits of the Reformation (occurred in the 1500's): that Justification is by faith alone, in Christ alone, by the grace of God alone, to the glory of God alone and that scripture alone is the sole authority for doctrine and practice in the church. These essential beliefs span across the conservative Protestant divide whether Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Charismatic or non-denominational .

We all agree we live in confusing times and there is great disunity in the world. Let's not let that degree of confusion and disunity be true within the body of Christ. We are called to be love one another, to be salt & light and with technology like social media, we know that the world is watching us now more than ever. I ask, for the sake of Jesus' Name - let's remember of focus predominantly on love, respect and the beliefs and practices we have in common more than what we disagree on.