United -where and to what? Divided -how? Age, experience, faith, faithlessness, commitment or determination to no commitment to X, Y or Z, gender, family, nation, ethnicity, race, culture/subculture, even down to the most basic preference one way or the other, this is the reality of the human condition as I personally see it.
The concept of full and complete unity is in this sense, not only impossible but costs to the extent few if anyone either reaches it or has it -including any of us with God Himself.
Let me explain that last bit please.
Unless we are literally perfect/flawless/sinless/fully mistake-free we are not in the sense I am speaking here always and at every moment, re. decision, choice, attitude and behavior literally PERFECT as God Himself is. He is a distinct Person (The Trinity to be more theologically exact) and no matter how deeply our faith and relationship to Him, yes, even in Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior- I remain different to Him.
I WANT to agree with Him in all things but must confess there are always areas of difference, divide, even at times rebellion against all I am convinced He wants for me to be and do. Am I in unity with Him? Through my faith in Jesus and God’s love for me, yes… but this is not the unity many are discussing even as they quote scripture using the term or like terms.
If this is true in our relation to God, then how is it not between people? Perfect, total unity even among professing Christians isn’t what we actually have on this earth. If we will not be truly honest about this even then we are divided, no?
What husband and wife fully agree on all things right through many decades of marriage? What church or ministry partnership is in 100 percent unity on all matters at all times? What band or sports team or you-name-it in the core of their thoughts is always fully on the same page with every and all issues?
So how is it we expect such of one another in the United (!) States (or anywhere else)?
Look, I’m not saying everyone must always speak out on all matters nor that all must blindly agree with all others to express and maintain true, actual unity -though others seem to say that’s what unity is about.
The reality is much like a church I knew of some years ago that split into two camps (though I believe there were more…). Some referred to themselves as “liberals”, others “conservatives”. That local church no longer exists. But before you leap to conclusions on that, there were likely others who in some areas leaned strongly to either of both “sides” depending on the particular issue. We might consider them “independents”.
Then there were others there who probably didn’t come to strong conclusions on some of the more divisive (or unifying) matters as well. At least in various snapshots of time they would be “undecideds”. In any case, this is not only true in almost all local churches, denominations, house churches and other gatherings of professing Christians, it is the case in most any area of life including the political spectrum.
Am I saying “Forget about being in unity or seeking to build it!”?? NO. I am saying we must face practical, boots-on-ground reality that though we may or may not speak, write or communicate on various divisive issues doesn’t mean now or -ever- even in the past, we were truly and completely united in the first place. That’s a myth and as I see it, should not come as a surprise.
The deeper issue is being truly honest about how to love one another, forgive one another and yes, at times strongly disagree with one another without destroying the relationship, by taking the cheap and cross-less route of simply leaving one another to link only with those who are in full agreement with us. If God did that with us you and I (my Christian brothers and sisters) would never see His face again. Ponder that for a bit.
See, either love keeps coming back or even hate, perhaps even a conclusion like “If YOU knew what I KNOW…” and sharp, emotional disagreements move us to not only burn bridges but one another.
I have seen this all around the world in so many groups (Christian and otherwise) that these thoughts I now write are just common for me.
“Knowledge puffs up, love builds up”. Self-righteousness easily pretends deity while humility and grace nurtures and I reckon produces relationships of love, trust and unity even when at times and in any number of areas we are not -and surely in various areas have NEVER been- united.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” doesn’t mean there are no prophets or times to prophesy, in some moments with sharp, direct yet life-giving truths. The Bible is loaded with those and that. “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.”
“Seek peace and pursue it” indeed! Finally from Paul in Colossians chapter 3 And to all these qualities add love, which binds all things together in perfect unity.”” Dear reader, sometimes you and I aren’t active re. the things he mentions prior (in context) and truly, the punchline here- ADD LOVE… without which full, mature, complete unity isn’t happening. Paul doesn’t say we live in this state, rather that we must attend to these things if there is any hope of reaching it.
The day-to-day issue we must consider is whether we are adding love and compassion to the local and larger stew, or if we simply add to the hunger and separation which in the end looks more like scorched earth than either love or holiness.
And this from an aging holiness preacher. “If we have not love” -we got zip my friends.
Things to consider along the path?
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn