Why Should Catholics, Protestants and Orthodox Christians Reunite?
Catholics believe they alone are the fullness of Christ’s church, the various Eastern Orthodox communions believe the same about themselves and Protestants believe they are Christ’s church and may or may not accept Catholics and the Orthodox as part of Christ’s church. Why should these three groups with such diverse views of the church consider reunion?
1. Because the Bible tells us we should. In 1 Corinthians 1:10, the Apostle Paul says “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” As early as the first century the Christians in Corinth were beginning to divide into different groups, each claiming a different Christian teacher for their leader (1 Cor. 1:12). In response to this the Apostle Paul admonishes the Corinthians for their divisions and encourages them to be united in the same mind. Though the situation today between Catholics, Protestants and the Orthodox is not exactly the same as the divisions found in the church of Corinth in the first century, there is still a lesson Christians today could learn from Paul’s words to the Corinthians: all those who would claim to be Christians are to be united in the same mind. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:1-6 “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Since there is only one body of Christ, all people who profess to be followers of Christ should be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace with all others who are followers of Christ.
2. Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthdox Christians need each other! From the Catholic perspective, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians are not part of the fullness of Christ’s church. Catholics believe that Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians are separated brethren who are part of the church, though in a very incomplete way. From the Catholic perspective, the separation of the Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians is as if an arm of the body of Christ ceased to function properly. A human body can survive with only one fully functioning arm but it could function better with two fully functioning arms. So it is with the body of Christ. The church is able to survive and function sufficiently without Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians within the fullness of the church but the Catholic Church would function much better if they came back into the fullness of Christ’s church. It is undeniable that Protestant Christians are able to contribute to Christ’s church in various ways. They have a tremendous desire to study God’s word, a great emphasis on the importance of sermons, a wonderful emphasis on evangelism and an unquestionable desire to follow Christ. Eastern Orthodox Christians have an amazing zeal to preserve Christian traditions, a heavenly vision of beauty in the liturgy, an admirable emphasis on self denial, as well as a sincere desire to be conformed into the image of God (theosis).
From the Protestant and Eastern Orthodox perspectives, the Catholic Church is needed in order to have a center of unity. Without the Bishop of Rome being the visible center of unity in the Protestant and Orthdox communions, they break down into numerous pieces and divisions without anything to keep them together into one organic whole. Additionally, without the Catholic Church, they do not have a single authoritative voice to declare what is true and what is false, what is moral and what is immoral.
3. Because our disunity is a bad witness to non-Christians. Let’s face it, non-Christians see how divided the followers of Christ are and as a result they are not impressed with Christianity. Indeed there may be other reasons non-Christians do not seriously consider converting to Christianity, but this is definitely a major stumbling block to some (after all, if we are going to tell them to be reconciled to God, it is only right that we be reconciled with each other). Our desire as followers of Christ should be to remove this stumbling block in order that non-Christians would be more likely to consider following the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ultimately, Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox Christians should work towards reunion because it would please Christ (John 17:21)! May God’s Spirit bring this about.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.