The theology of today is the downstream result of the philosophy of 10 years ago.
I’m behind the times a little and I will admit that I originally didn’t see the danger of the movement. I know that I have a book from about 10 years ago with the title: More Jesus, Less Religion. The more common statement was: “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”
I got into a disagreement with a cowboy pastor a few years back over his gratuitous use of this bumper-sticker Christianity. He told me that apologetics, doctrine, and religion were of little use today. I asked him to tell me about Jesus. He began by saying that Jesus was the son of God. I then asked him who God was? Every time he began a statement I reminded him that he was making a doctrinal statement.
Relationship is defined by doctrine. Who’s in the relationship? The identity of the two parties? How do they interact, communicate?
Whether it is a spouse, parent, child, friend, stranger, or alien, whatever method of contact, relationships are based upon timeless truths and rules.
When we think correctly about God, our lives will align correctly in Him.
This thinking is what motivated Jesus to pray: “I am the true vine…remain in me, as I also remain in you.” (John 15.1,4). Jesus knew that a key to unity is a common source. It’s the same principle that unites our country every 4 years during the olympics, the same principle that unites college alumni all over the country, and the same principle that makes Texans so annoying!
A common bond, found in a common source, is what Jesus is identifying here. He is the common source and he knows that when unity will be challenged, their connection to him will be in call.
I have seen it in Youth Groups. When a youth group starts focusing on the youth band or what the next fellowship gathering is going to be instead of Jesus, their unifying source has been eradicated.
I have seen it in churches. When the discussions begin to focus on worship styles, or what the Pastor’s wearing (tie vs. no tie), or even the addition of a Sunday school class, the source has been severed from the people.
I have seen it in small groups when meetings turn into bbq’s and fishing excursions instead of opening God’s Word and looking for Jesus, the source, the vine has been weed whacked.
So Jesus prays: “Remain…”
The formula from verse 5 is pretty simple. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. Apart from him, we can do nothing. (15.5) As long as we stay connected to the source, unity will prevail. Three legged races, under ware races, or blob tag is a living picture of what a common source can result in. It may not always be pretty, nor will it be easy, but a common source will direct unity.
That is why doctrine is paramount. And not just any doctrine, but sound doctrine. Paul makes it a priority for Timothy and Jon makes it central to his book. The question of “who is Jesus?” is every bit as much a doctrine question as it is a relationship question! So before the touchy-feely people take over theology, let’s explore first how sound doctrine can provide unity, prior to radical inclusivity.