THE LADDER THAT DIVIDES SIX CHURCHES

THE LADDER THAT DIVIDES SIX CHURCHES

Neal Pollard

There is a fascinating object at a site considered holy by many that has seriously divided six religious groups.  Actually, the ladder does not divide all of them and is only an example that highlights the division.  In Jerusalem, there is a church building most likely built by Constantine in 326 A.D. around what Israeli scholar Dan Bahat and the Oxford Archaeological Guide to the Holy Land, among others, suggest could be the tomb where Jesus was buried.  This building, known variously as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre or Church of the Resurrection, is claimed and overseen by the Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, Coptic, Syrian Orthodox, and Ethiopian Orthodox Churches. The Ottoman Empire, which controlled the city in 1757, made a firman (decree) to establish a status quo defining the rights of each of these religious groups to the building.  Apparently, just before the decree was issued,

Someone placed a wooden ladder on a window ledge above the church entrance.  And it has been there ever since. It must not be moved.  According to one account the window belongs to the Armenians.  The cornice on which the ladder rests, however, has been assigned in the status quo to the Greek Orthodox.  As a result the ladder must not be removed because it sits on property of the Greek Orthodox (and only the Greek Orthodox can go there and change anything on it) but leans on property of the Armenians (and only Armenians can alter something that touches the window).  Neither group therefore controls the ladder, nor may either remove it (Danny Herman, “Who Moved The Ladder,” Biblical Archaeological Review, Jan/Feb 2010, 14).

While it is sad that many wish to venerate material objects and give special significance to material relics, there is something sadder still and something that is a problem broader than Catholicism and Orthodoxy.  Have you ever seen anything insignificant and non-essential cause strife, hurt, hardship, and division in a congregation?  Too many times, matters equally as trivial and pathetic as a ladder on a ledge of a building has broken fellowship between God’s people.

Mankind is so incredibly divided over a multitude of matters of truth.  Man has instituted his own doctrines and beliefs where Jesus was crystal clear.  There should not be division over our worship, how to be saved, or who is the saved because Jesus has clearly spoken on these matters.  While these manmade divisions will cost millions their souls, what about other incidents which do not constitute a situation of faith versus opinion.  What about when our division is over a matter of opinion versus opinion, judgment against judgment, and feelings facing feelings?  Too often, the differences that causes individual congregations to feud and even divide amount to little more than a ladder propped against a window.  When one asserts his window and another his cornice, are we not walking like mere men (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1-3)?  Strife and jealousy do not belong among the people of God.  May we strive for the spiritual maturity to see and practice that.

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