PRACTICING THE BODY LIFE WITHOUT DIVISION
In a large city such as Los Angeles, there are many denominations and divisions. When someone is saved and becomes a member of the Body of Christ, he must live the Body life. How then can he realize the Body life? Should he place himself in the Roman Catholic Church? Should he go to the Presbyterians, Baptists, or Episcopalians? Where can he practice the Body life? This is a real problem; it is not a small matter. This is why we need to have the proper ground of the church without any denominational element, a ground without any division. The proper ground is the ground of the locality, the local ground, the unique ground of the oneness of the church.
The one who is saved should try his best to find other believers in his city, and he should meet with them, help them, and be helped by them. Then these believers, who are not in the denominations but simply living in this city, should come together not to form anything, not to create another division, but to stand on the ground of the locality where they are. If any others who are in the “small circles” of divisions realize that they have to give up the circles, they should do it. If they do not, however, there is no need to proselytize. There are many unsaved ones to whom we can testify, minister Christ, bring to Christ, and bring into this proper church life. To practice in this way is to practice the unique ground of oneness.
If this brother one day moves to another city, he should first realize that he is simply a brother in that city. Then he should do his best to find others there who take the same standing of the local ground, the ground of oneness. When he meets with them, he should try to help them and try to be helped by them. These who come together become a group of believers standing on the proper ground in that city. If in that city there is already a group of believers standing on this proper ground, the brother has to be willing to submit himself to them. He should not say, “Those people seem peculiar to me. When I pray, I pray in a very silent way, but those people pray too emotionally. I do not want to join them. I will start another meeting in my home where I can pray silently.” If he says this, he will eventually raise up a “praying silently” church. He may not declare or claim to be doing that; he may proclaim that he is not sectarian or denominational. In actuality, however, that is what he is doing. This is the problem with divisions. If the brother finds a group of genuine believers standing on the proper ground, then regardless of the way they have their meeting, practice their service, or pray, he has to join them.
To say this is easy, but within only the past two years we have been tested in this regard. Certain brothers heard about our meeting in Los Angeles and came to us imagining that we must be something in the third heavens. When they came, however, they realized that we were actually something in “the valley.” They began to ask, “Why this?” and “Why that?” in a divisive way. As long as someone asks in this way, he is sectarian. The answer to “Why this?” is that we are simply the church in Los Angeles. The answer to “Why that?” is that we are, in principle, the church in Jerusalem or the church in Antioch. If someone does not care to meet with the church on the local ground, he should not raise up another meeting in this city. To do so would be sectarian. Someone may say, “These poor people in Los Angeles pray ‘in the valley.’ I want to meet where I can pray ‘in the heavens.’” He may do so, but he should go to another city to do that. When he gets to that city, however, he may find that there is already a group of people standing on the proper ground. If he tries to move away to yet another city, he still must take the standing of the proper ground in that city. Eventually, he must submit himself, or he will create a division. We have no right to make a division.
THE UNIQUE CENTER FOR THE WORSHIP TO GOD
Someone may ask us, “If you have no right to make a division, then why do you not join our circle? Why do you separate yourselves from all the circles? Is that not a division?” We cannot join those “circles” because they are divisions. To join any one of them is to join a division. How can we do this? We must keep away from divisions. Consider the picture of Israel in the good land. When God brought all His people into the land, He chose Jerusalem as the unique place for them to come together to worship Him. According to Deuteronomy 12 through 16, Jerusalem was the one unique center. Verse 5 of chapter 12 says, “To the place which Jehovah your God will choose out of all your tribes to put His name, to His habitation, shall you seek, and there shall you go.” All the people of the twelve tribes had to come to this one place. No one had the right to set up another place of worship, regardless of the reason. It is by the unique center for worship that the oneness of the twelve tribes was constantly kept throughout all the centuries.
Suppose that the Israelites had the right to set up other centers for worship. After five years another small center may have been set up in the north, and after another five years, more centers may have been set up in other regions. By all these centers, the people of God eventually would have been divided. However, they were not allowed to do this. They had no right to do this. One Israelite may have fought with his neighbor just before the Feast of Tabernacles. When the time of the feast came, however, both he and his neighbor, as males of the people of Israel, had no other choice but to go to Jerusalem. If one saw the other on the way to Jerusalem, he had no right to say, “Are you going there? Then I will not. I will set up a center for worship right here.” If he did this, he would be cut off from the people of Israel. To be cut off was to suffer death. This was very serious. All the males of the people of Israel had to go to the one unique place three times a year. In order not to be cut off, each one had to go to the same place, even if his enemy was there. Not only did they have to go to that place; they also had to worship God by offering the peace offering and sharing it with one another. This would compel each one to say, “Brother, forgive me.” Then they would experience Psalm 133: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is / For brothers to dwell in unity!” (v. 1).
According to Deuteronomy 12 through 16, there was no possibility to have division. There was no alternative, no choice. They were bound and limited. God already had chosen a place for them to go, and they had no right to choose for themselves. Ninety percent of the produce that they reaped from the good land they could enjoy in any place of their choice at any time. However, they had no right to choose the place to enjoy the tithe of ten percent. To enjoy that portion of the rich surplus of the land, they had to go to the only place chosen and appointed by God. This is a type of our experience today. On the one hand, we have the right to enjoy and experience Christ at any time and in any place that we like. However, as long as we are going to have the church life to enjoy Christ in a corporate way as a worship to the Father, we have no choice. We have to do this to keep the oneness of the Body.
(The Ground of the Church and the Meetings of the Church, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)