When the Israelites left Egypt under the leadership of Moses, they were one people. When Jesus sent out the 72 to preach the Gospel they were one Church. In the Book of Numbers we read that Moses ordered the people of Israel into 12 tribes ready to enter the promised land. In the book of Acts we read that Peter and Paul are ordering the Church ready for Mission. So where did it all go wrong? Why do we read in the Book of Judges that the tribes are at war and one tribe is almost wiped out? Why do we read the books of history and have a church that is so fractured that some branches are almost wiped out?
It seems that we have become used to the history of Israel as we read the Old Testament. We know that the tribes have come together, worked together and survived many attacks from other nations. Yet we also know that in some periods of the Old Testament the people of Israel were fighting against each other. In Judges the tribe of Benjamin are almost wiped out and God has to give them wives to keep the tribe multiplying. In Samuel the Kingdom is divided into Israel and Judah. We also know that the theme of exile runs through the old testament but that God always remains faithful to His Promises.
So it seems to me that the Reformation both in Europe and in England were like the tribes of Israel splitting in the promised land. Once the Israelites and Christians moved from being the people of God into Geopolitical nations all the trouble started. Is it just me or does this feel a little bit like the Book of Samuel where God says that it is not good to have worldly kingdoms for God is our King. Whilst I am no Church history scholar it seems that many difficult times in Church history have been tied to political forces.
In January 2012 the Tablet published two articles about the formation of a joint commission between the Vatican (Catholic Church) and the Lutheran World Federation. The commission will look at a joint statement on the history of the Reformation in preparation for the 500 anniversary of the Luther statements in 1517. In the articles it acknowledges that in the past both churches have blamed each other for the Reformation, yet now they recognise that both sides had a hand in the split. It seems that it became Geopolitical, the tribe of Vatican were at war and split with the tribe of England and the tribe of Germany.
In recent years as the Church has lost it hold on almost every Government in the World, it is becoming easier for the Church to reunite as the people of God. Instead of seeking to become one Church under one banner (such as Catholic), perhaps we should learn from the bible. The 12 tribes of Israel is an example to us all that the Body of Christ is made up of many parts, each with its own special role. Lets not try to be the same but seek unity as the Body of Christ.