We Are One
Christians are in unity with one another because they are united with Christ, the head of the church.
This goal has implications. Since most Christians believe that Christians who are not members of their denomination or Church Community can also end up in the new heavens and new earth,we must allow for unity which crosses these boundaries.
The Catholic Church has grudgingly admitted that Protestant Christians are also members of the true church.(Too bad they didn't recognize this during the Protestant Reformation and before — they wouldn't have persecuted and burned-at-the-stake holy men of God.)
True Christians should not kill one another. The various Christian wars in various parts of the world should come to an end. Christians of different groups should work together and not oppose each other's views or work.
Christians should not be violent towards one another. I hear of Catholic and Orthodox Churches which commit acts of violence against Protestants who move into their areas. This is wrong.
Christians should not discriminate against each other. Catholics should not discriminate against Protestants and Protestants should not discriminate against Catholics.
The motivation for Christians treating one another badly is each group considers their views as correct and the other's views as heretical (I am ignoring those pseudo-Christian groups claiming to be Christian but are not, lacking historical continuity and apostolic doctrines). To have Christian unity requires Christians be more tolerant of each other's views.
Just as during the Protestant Reformationthe various Christian groups each considered that they had arrived at the ultimate Christian truth and that other Christians were heretics, so today, many Christian groups intensely believe that only they have the true gospel and that other Christian groups are agents of the devil. Needless to say, this kind of "fundamentalist" thinking does not lead to Christian unity, but to religious wars and division.
Is the church flawed? I suppose it is — this, because people are flawed. Another way of viewing this that emphasizes the positive . . .
The analogy of personality traits
We each have various personality traits. Each person has a certain measure of each particular personality trait — some have more; some have less. For example, the personality trait of Social Boldness — some are more bold in social situations; some less bold. It is wrong to think of these variations among individuals as flaws (unless carried to unhealthy extremes or if they interfere with day-to day functioning).
No one in the world has the maximum amount of every personality trait, and nobody is without any personality traits at all — each of us has a mixture.
Just as individuals have personality traits, so do Christian communities. Not all are equal; some are stronger in one area and weaker in others. This was true even in the apostolic era as the letters to the seven churches in the book of Revelation indicate.
These personality traits of Christianity occur at various levels — at each local church and at each denomination or Christian community. Thus, for example, the Southern Baptists have a certain culture but each local Southern Baptist church has its own culture. That is why Christians sometimes switch churches — when the culture changes (often when the pastor leaves) they sometimes change denominations if they happen to find a local church they feel at home in.
Certainly there are negative characteristics; these should be avoided . . .
Other characteristics are neutral unless carried to the extreme or if the core traits are missing . . .
The traits which should be strongly emphasized in every church . . .
Traits which I think are important (but not essential) because the early church practiced these from the beginning . . .