50. Church

All cults have a common characteristic. Each starts with one person who believes he or she has a new and unique revelation about life that no one else has. Speaking as a "teacher" of mysteries, this teacher authoritatively claims these new ideas are the only "correct" way to associate with God. Once some like-minded people collect together as followers, these "true" believers announce they are the "true" church. Anyone who thinks contrary, and disagrees, is shunned. Shunning goes beyond clannishness and may lead to hostility. Violence, murder, and martyrdom have resulted. Cultic thinking and behavior has been man's lot from time's beginning.

So, we see that a cult is a group of people who insist their unique beliefs are essential for relationship with God. They join together, manufacture a holy book, acquiesce to their leader, proselytize new members, shun all who disagree, and comfort themselves by imagining they are superior. Cults are aggressive and hard to avoid. They seldom hide.

Jesus' church is entirely different. It is spiritual, not physical. Membership is through a connection to God and not through strange ideas. You made your connection when you met God and felt him in your "heart." All who are spiritually connected with God in this same manner are members of Jesus' church. His church is the "ekklesia," simply God's community of believers. Our leader is God the Father as revealed by Jesus. All who are at one with God by faith are in the Kingdom of God, the ekklesia, now and for eternity.

Our oneness with God because of Jesus is the major theme of the New Testament. Jesus taught we are all children of our heavenly Father. Our equality before God is described in Paul's letter to the Galatians. He wrote, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:28, RSV). Understanding our unity with God helps us understand our unity with each other. When we are at one with God, we cooperate in unity. Competition and exclusiveness are outside God's will for us. Unconditional (agape) love for God and our fellow is God's law for us. Cults limit their love to those who subscribe to their demands.

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