God’s people are united in heart and in purpose
PEOPLE MAY HAVE diverse opinions about the Iglesia Ni Cristo, but one thing they can certainly agree on is about how united and cohesive its members are. This trait is evident in all its religious undertakings and has caught the interest of many observers.
“The Iglesia ni Cristo in the Philippines has managed to retain a high degree of unity,” noted David J. Hesselgrave, an influential missiologist (Dynamic religious movements: Case studies of rapidly growing religious movements around the world, 1978, p. 308).
Journalist Ben Lara commented that “... the most outstanding mark of the INC is the apparent unity of its membership ...” (Iglesia—Disciplined and Cocksure [last of a series], Bulletin Today, July 15, 1973).
Arthur Leonard Tuggy, a Baptist who devoted a great deal of study on Asian church missions, wrote that “The Iglesia moves forward like an army, each member in his proper place and under recognized authority” (Iglesia ni Cristo: A Study in Independent Church Dynamics, p. 258).
Unity is strictly observed in the Church Of Christ not simply as a matter of organizational policy, but in obedience to a fundamental Christian doctrine. Apostle Paul likened the true Church to the “one body” whose Head is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Col. 1:18; Rom. 12:4-5). In that “one body”―the apostle taught―there is “one Spirit,” “one hope,” “one faith,” and “one baptism” (Eph. 4:4-5, New King James Version).
While it is true that other organizations may also strive for and even succeed in fostering unity in some aspects, the uniqueness and inviolability of the unity within Christ’s body were emphasized by the Lord Jesus in His prayer:
“I pray that all of these people continue to have unity in the way that you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they may be united with us so that the world will believe that you have sent me ... I am in them, and you are in me. So they are completely united.” (John 17:21, 23, God’s Word, emphasis ours)
Thus, this unity involves not only the members of the Church but the Almighty God and the Lord Jesus Christ as well.
Historical accounts of the first-century Church reveal how the members faithfully put unity into practice. Luke, the evangelist, recorded that at one point “All the believers were united in heart and mind ... so they shared everything they had” (Acts 4:32, New Living Translation). There also came a time when “... day after day they regularly assembled in the temple with united purpose” (Acts 2:46, Amplified Bible). Christ’s disciples were able to sustain such a high degree of solidarity because they completely united with and submitted to the apostles and Church elders, and kept all the rules and decisions delivered to them (Acts 16:4, Acts 15:1-2, 12, 19; I John 1:3). As a result, “the church grew daily in faith and numbers” (Acts 16:5, Living Bible)―lending credence to the adage: “In unity there is strength.”
Thus, the observance of unity in the Church Of Christ in these last days is not a novel idea but categorically a basic Christian precept practiced during the time of Christ on earth and of His apostles. In fact, centuries before them, King David expressed, “... how good and how pleasant it is For brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Ps. 133:1, NKJV).
To achieve unity, Christians are commanded to “obey [their] spiritual leaders, and do what they say” (Heb. 13:17, NLT) inasmuch as “whatever [they] forbid on earth will be forbidden in heaven, and whatever [they] permit on earth will be permitted in heaven” (Matt. 18:18, Ibid.). Simply put, any decision handed down by the Christian leaders is spiritually binding.
This explains why Iglesia Ni Cristo members all over the world move and think “as one man” (Phil. 1:27, New International Version) in taking part in the various activities initiated by the Church Administration, such as the INC Worldwide Walk, evangelical missions, and the opening and closing centennial celebrations in July 2014 and July 2015, respectively. But it is not only during huge events when the solidarity of the Church is made manifest. Brethren all the more show the same singleness of heart and purpose as they fulfill their religious obligations, foremost of which is attending the congregational worship services. On the appointed days and times, they flock to their worship buildings even in times of adverse weather, political, or social conditions.
Stories and images of ministers and evangelical workers submerged in chest-deep floods as they make their way to their preaching assignment, of brethren attending service while half their legs are soaked in flood waters, or of those braving super typhoons and other calamities, are not uncommon at all in the Philippines. On the other side of the globe where blizzards at times make travelling extremely hazardous―so much so that government agencies issue an advisory for citizens to stay home―still you can find vehicle tire marks along snow-covered roads leading to the Iglesia Ni Cristo houses of worship. Indeed, nothing―weather disturbance, power outage, social turmoil, name it―can stop faithful members of the Church from attending and holding worship services. Wherever in the world they may be, they share such common utmost regard for this duty.
The same singleness of purpose can be seen in the manner true Christians conduct their life. Regardless of the customs of the community they are in―conservative or liberal, traditional or permissive―they strive to lead a Christian way of life, that is, “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil. 1:27, Ibid.). They do not go with the flow and blend in for the sake of expediency or survival; rather, they uphold God’s teachings without compromise even when subjected to persecution and hardship.
But more than personal efforts, it is because of God’s help and guidance through which members of the true Church are able to maintain unity of faith even in the face of obstacles and attempts of the devil to sow dissension and strife within Christ’s body. The Almighty declared, thus: “They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of heart and singleness of purpose, so that they will fear me forever—this will be for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make with them an everlasting covenant not to turn away from them, but to do them good; I will put fear of me in their hearts, so that they will not leave me. I will take joy in them, so as to do them good. I will plant them in this land truly, with my whole heart and being’” (Jer. 32:38-41, Complete Jewish Bible, emphasis ours).
As God’s chosen people in these last days, Iglesia Ni Cristo members throughout the world―regardless of ethnicity and skin color, language, or socio-economic status―strive to uphold unity, knowing that it is the will of God taught by the Lord Jesus Christ. Against all odds and at all costs, they uphold this solidarity, for doing so is crucial to keeping God’s companionship that the Church has enjoyed: “... Agree with each other [Live in unity], and live in peace. Then the God of love and peace will be with you” (II Cor. 13:11, Expanded Bible).