Another quick one from new Mockingbirder Win Jordan.
Muzafer Sherif’s famous “Robbers’ Cave Experiment” says that we embrace division—not just that we are happy with divisions, but that we actively seek them out. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we develop our identities and our community by way of our divisions. (If you want proof of this, just introduce yourself as “Democrat” or “Republican” at your next mixer and see how you’re received.)
It certainly has not and is not different for the Christian. We look to theologians, churches, or denominations to define the “Faith” marker of identity. If I’m being honest with myself, this is something I do to distance myself from dominant-prominent Christians in the media. I make distinctions because it’s tough to accept that we believe in the same thing—Jesus’ resurrection and invitation for salvation.
Martin Luther himself clearly felt this worry about where our identity was distinguished. Upon hearing Christians were calling themselves Luther-ans, he replied:
The first thing I ask is that people should not make use of my name, and should not call themselves Lutherans, but Christians. What is Luther? The teaching is not mine. Nor was I crucified for anyone. St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 3, would not tolerate Christians calling themselves Paul’s or Peter’s, but only Christians. How did I, poor stinking bag of maggots that I am, come to the point where people call the children of Christ by my evil name? Not so, dear friends, let us do away with party names, and be called Christians, for it is his teaching that we have.
Gerhard Ebeling adds in his analysis that “it is quite certain that Luther rejected with great vehemence any submission to the authority of a human being in matters of faith and any reliance on human ordinances of one’s own choosing instead of the liberating word of God. He made it quite clear that the same was true of anyone’s attitude to his own person.”
This belonging is reflected at the Heidelberg Catechism when it asks “What is your only comfort in life and in death?” the response to which is, “That I am not my own but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven; in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.”