THE ULTIMATE WAY OF ONENESS
IN THE NEW JERUSALEM
In the New Jerusalem there is one way, one street (Rev. 22:1). Because there is one street, no one can go astray. This one way saves us. There is no confusion and no possibility to go astray. Even if we try to go astray, we eventually will not be able to, because in the New Jerusalem there is only one way, and there will be no possibility to get off of it.
THE WAY OF DIVISIONS TODAY
How beautiful and how pleasant this picture is, just as Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is / For brothers to dwell in unity!” Today in each city, however, the situation is different. Everywhere—in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Tokyo, Taipei, and Hong Kong—people ask, “Are you a Christian? Have you been saved? Praise the Lord! What is your church?” An American brother may say, “I am of the Church of England,” even though it seems foolish for an American citizen to be in an English church. If he is transferred to another city, he will look for the British church in that city. Similarly, a Chinese brother in America may say that he is in the Chinese Independent Church, and someone of Scandinavian descent may say that he belongs to the Swedish Lutheran Church. In one American city there may be an Anglo church, a Chinese church, and a Swedish church. How strange this sounds, but this is exactly the situation. Here is a so-called church built upon the British ground, another built upon the Chinese ground, and another built upon the Swedish ground.
In the same way, a Japanese person may say that he belongs to the Japanese Baptist Church. Someone who comes from Greece may not like the British, thinking they are too political. Neither does he like the Chinese, thinking they are too concerned with money, and he also does not like the Swedes and the Japanese. Because he likes only his countrymen, the Greeks, he will look for the Greek Orthodox Church, the church built upon the Greek ground. This is the situation today. We need a “vaccination” against this disease.
MEETING OUTSIDE THE MANY GROUNDS OF DIVISION
If someone asks what church we belong to, we should simply say, “I belong to the church.” If he asks what kind of church that is, we can say, “It is simply the church.” There are many small “circles” meeting in each city—the British circle, the Chinese circle, the Swedish circle, and the Japanese circle, as well as the Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Lutheran circles. Where then should we place ourselves? We should be outside the circles, outside the camp (Heb. 13:13), and in the one “circle” of the church. The problem between brothers is due to the small circles. If we remove the small circles, we all will be in the one church. There will be no divisions, all of which come from the small circles. All these small circles become many different grounds upon which many different kinds of churches are built up.
If all the grounds were torn down, this would leave only one ground without any division. However, someone may say that there is no possibility of tearing down all these grounds. I agree with this; there is no possibility. According to the prophecy in the New Testament, the denominational grounds will remain until the Lord’s coming. Not only is there no possibility of actually tearing them down; even the Lord Himself has no intention to get rid of them. The Lord will tolerate all these things, let them remain until He comes back, and then put them all under His judgment.
In such a situation full of confusion, however, where shall we stand? Can we stand in the various denominations? No we cannot. Can we stand in the national churches? No we cannot. We should stand simply on the ground of the locality where we are. I am a saint living in Los Angeles, so I should stand on the ground of this city, and so should many others. Then we can come together, but we do not “draw a small circle.” We do not build upon another ground. Moreover, we do not specialize in anything but are very general. When these brothers and sisters who are outside the small circles come together, they are simply standing on the proper ground, the local ground, the ground of oneness.
LEARNING THE LESSONS OF THE CROSS
AND OF THE LIMITATION OF GOD’S ORDINATION
If some new brothers come to a city, they may look at those brothers meeting on the proper ground and notice that they do not speak in tongues. Because of this, the new brothers may decide to have a separate meeting in their home where they can speak in tongues. Their meeting in the home becomes a tongue-speaking meeting. Then gradually they may bring more into this meeting, still claiming that they are not a denomination. In fact, however, they are a small sect. We have no right to do this. If we do, we will create a division, another small “circle,” not being limited by the Lord’s ordination and decision.
A number of brothers may be meeting together outside all the “circles,” but gradually three or four may feel unhappy with the others and the meetings. They may feel that they can do something better, so they start to meet separately. In this way, these three or four create another small division. What then shall we do if we do not feel happy with the other brothers? The only thing to do is to learn the lessons of the cross and of limitation. We all have to be limited.
There is already an American embassy in Tokyo. Suppose that when two men go to the embassy, the people there are not polite. Can those men start another embassy? Can they go back to their apartment and put a sign over it that says, “American Embassy”? If they do, they will be in trouble with the American government. They have no right to do that. How pitiful it is today, however. Wherever Christians go, they feel that they have the right, the liberty, the freedom, to do whatever they want. Today it is too easy to disagree with others and start a church in one’s own home. It is easier than opening a new store. We cannot do this, and we have no right to do this. This is revealed by the type of the meeting in oneness in Deuteronomy 12. There was only one unique place appointed by God at which to worship the Lord (vv. 5-6, 11, 13-14). It was by that unique, appointed place that the oneness of the people of Israel was kept. One ground, one center, and one place kept the oneness.
Some may say that this concept is very good but too difficult to practice if there are thousands of believers in many meetings in one city. In actuality, this is not difficult. In a large city such as Los Angeles, there is one bank called Bank of America. This one bank, however, may have up to one hundred branch offices. In the same way, there can be many meetings in one city, yet all the meetings are of one church, which is still the church in Los Angeles. Recently, some brothers among us went to Taipei and saw the situation there. On the Lord’s Day in Taipei there are up to forty meetings for the Lord’s table, all meeting at the same time in the same city. All these home meetings, however, are of the one church in Taipei. If someone goes to Taipei, he may attend home meeting number one or home meeting number forty, but he is still attending the same church. There is no division there; rather, there is the oneness.
By this oneness there is the impact. If the fifty states of the United States were divided, the impact, the strength, and the power of this country would be lost. Why is the United States so strong today? It is because of the oneness. With the oneness there is the impact. Oh, how subtle the enemy is to divide the children of the Lord again and again! How weak the situation is today. There is no impact, and there is no learning of the lessons. If we keep the oneness, we will learn the lesson to recognize that each believer is our brother, and if we learn the lessons of the cross and of limitation, we will have the impact.
The ground of the church is not a small matter. It saves, keeps, and safeguards us, and it closes the back door for divisions. Regardless of whether or not we feel happy with someone, we have to meet with him on the proper ground. There is no other way and no other choice. There is only one choice, which is God’s choice.
(The Ground of the Church and the Meetings of the Church, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)