Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Maori Party and Christian Unity

Published in Challenge Weekly 2011
The current tensions in the Maori Party centred on Hone Harawira has got me thinking. Whatever you think of the Maori Party, it has done amazingly well. Formed in 2004, they have five MPs and sit in coalition with National wielding a disproportionate degree of influence considering they gained only 2.39% of the vote in 2008. Yet now there is evidence of growing divisions with even talk of a new party under Hone Hariwira. Unsurprisingly, it seems much of the problem relates in large part to a desire for power and influence.
Studying Philippians as I am, this has me thinking about unity. Jesus was big on unity. In John 17 he pleads with God that his people would be one as he is one with the Father. That is, that we in our relationships reflect the perfect harmony of the Trinity. Elsewhere, he warned of the dangers of disunity when he said, 'Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.' This principle has stood the test of time across all spheres of life. Jesus taught that we are not to be like the world struggling for power, but we are to be one based on service and love.
Sadly, God's people since the first have struggled to maintain unity. In the New Testament itself there is evidence of a number of struggles for power. It is apparent that the churches of Rome, Galatia, Philippi, Corinth, Ephesus and Crete were all beset with contention and power struggles. Paul in particular, challenges his readers to lay down their differences, to live with the attitude of Christ as servants, showing love and living as one in the Spirit.
The existence of denominational divisions is evidence of our ongoing struggle. According to David Barrett there are now something like 34,000 denominations! There are of course times to stand for truth and in these times unity is challenged. The truth is however, over the last 1000 years or so we have done this far too readily. Our local churches and denominations are often split by power struggles, or differences of minutiae. When it happens, whatever the reason, our witness is dimmed, our voice confused, and people have yet another reason to reject the faith. Satan loves our divisions. They are more often as not a result of sin and a desire to control.
One of my prayers in 2011 is that we all work harder than ever for Christian unity. We do not need to try and form one great denomination, this was tried in the ecumenical movement but failed. But, whatever church we go to, each of us must do our part to live in unity honouring others above ourselves. We must not make the mistake that the Maori Party is now making and tear ourselves apart even more. There is too much at stake as we seek the salvation of the world. Go deeper.
Postscript: Since the writing of this Hone H has left the Maori Party and it remains to be seen whether it will weaken Maori influence in politics. Time will tell.

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