In 1979, a Brazilian farmer by the name of Romeo Bitencourt was granted a divorce.
He was 90 years old, had been married 65 years, had 12 children, 50 grandchildren, and 36 great-grandchildren.
What was the reason given for this divorce?
We live in a time when unity in the family seems impossible. More than half of all new marriages end in divorce. Yet divorce greatly increases two- or three-fold the bad effects on children, including psychological problems, juvenile delinquency, suicide, under-education and teen motherhood.
In my home growing up there were spats, arguments, fights, raging battles and lengthy wars.
I remember thinking even then, “Why can’t people just get along?”
Relationship problems don’t end at the church door, either. Oh, no. Today’s church is terribly divided.
The World Church Database lists over 9,000 Christian denominations. There have been splits and schisms ad infinitum. This in spite of the words of Jesus in his final prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, “My prayer is not for them (the disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you sent me.” (John 17:20-21)
That seems incredible to me. Just moments before he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies, and hours before he stood trial for his life, Jesus was concerned that his disciples and future followers would be united. We might reasonably conclude that this was a very important concern of his. And yet we, today, seem to find any number of excuses not to come together as one. We seem to be defined more by our divisions and differences than by our unity.
It is love that brings unity. Love of God. Love of one another. Love, even, of our enemies.
That is why I say there is one Church in Pagosa Springs. It is the Church that is comprised of all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. There is no need to add further qualifications to it. But neither are we able to water it down by saying there are many ways to salvation. Only by way of the One True Church does community live in God’s will. All people have a longing to live in such a community. We do not need another church. We do not need to divide the church. We need “the” Church.
We cannot bring this Church into being. It already exists. We can, however, unify and strengthen the Church that already exists. We can build stronger solidarity between the leaders and the individual believers in our Church.
Mr. Romeo Bitencourt may have found it expedient to divorce his wife of 65 years for incompatibility, but Christian believers have no such remedy. Quite the contrary, we are bound together for all eternity.
Let us bind ourselves together in chains of love and build the community God intends us to build right here in Pagosa Springs.
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