This week is the Rally to Restore Unity Synchroblog hosted by Rachel Held Evans.
I will admit that as I reflected on Christian Unity and thought about what to contribute, the
cynic pessimist realist in me was convinced that Christian unity simply is not possible. I mean, how can we push for Christian unity when Christians have never been united? Look at the New Testament and all the bickering and in-fighting. Even the awesomely awesome Paul ended up parting ways with Barnabas over whether John Mark was a fit companion for the Gospel work they have to do. If Paul couldn’t even practice unity, how the heck are we supposed to?
And then I realized, that just because it may not be humanly possible to restore unity, it is humanly possible to pray for unity, to desire unity and to encourage unity. We cannot unite ourselves. Unity comes from the person and work of Christ and is made manifest by the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian unity will happen in a much more full way than we can ever imagine when we are all gathered around the throne of the Lamb singing His praises. It will happen. Unity will be our natural response to seeing and worshipping the King of Kings.
But, that is the future hope. What about now? In the now we need to pray and seek and strive for unity. It may not happen, but that does not mean we should ignore it, and it doesn’t give us license to continue to fight and bicker with our brothers and sisters.
So what does unity look like in the present?
Unity does not mean that we all think and act the same, like one giant Borg cube, with no individuality.
Unity does not mean that there is not correction or rebuke.
Unity does not mean that we put on shiny happy faces and pretend that everything is coming up roses.
Unity means that we humbly submit to one another, bowing down and washing each others’ feet.
Unity means that we love even when it is difficult to love.
Unity means that we encourage each other in our race to the finish line.
Unity means that we listen to each other.
Unity means we challenge each other to love harder and think deeper.
Unity means that we, as members of the body of Christ, are all recipients of God’s gracious gift of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Last year, I wrote that I know of no better way to ‘keep it simple silly’ than to point us back to the Apostles’ Creed.
Today, I would like to point us Scripture. In this case, a responsive liturgy as found in the Church of the Nazarene’s hymnal, that is a collection of verses that talk about Christian unity. May this be our hearts’ cry. The plain text is read by the leader, the bold is read by the congregation in unison:
Christian Unity #676
I appeal to you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you.
And that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to one hope…
One God and Father of all,
Who is over all and through all and in all.
Jesus said, “Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, so that they may be one as we are one.
“May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
“I am the vine; you are the branches.
“If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit;
“Apart from me you can do nothing. If you remain in me and my words remain in you,
“Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. My command is this: Love each other as I have love you.
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.