When recently asked about unity a long list of things immediately popped up in my mind. I think two general areas of thought sum it up:
Unity or uniformity?
Agreement with you and your tribe on Bible interpretation and application, form/method of “doing church together” and secondly, civil (or uncivil) politics?
I’ve gone to Jesus’ discourse with His disciples in John 17 many times and that along with plenty of other texts such as Paul’s “preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”, verses about being “of one mind, one accord” and Psalm 133 over and over.
I’ll soon have lived, Lord willing, in an intentional Christian community for 50 years among a wide and I mean wide variance of age, ethnicity, race, subculture, both people seeking to follow Jesus to “Don’t know quite yet” to longtime church attenders and you-name-it sorts of people. For 28 years a main ministry (as in “serving”) was our Cornerstone Festival which linked a super-broad spectrum of thousands of people from churches and ministries like and quite unlike one another for four days to one week annually. It was to many of us a bit of “heaven on earth”.
By “unity” do you mean you with your Christian neighbor down the block even though you attend two truly different churches who do not agree on any number of issues? When you use the term are you meaning to say you and I and all professing Christ followers should vote Democratic, Republican, Libertarian or Independent or we’re not in unity as believers?
Or when calling for unity do you define that word to mean “Either we agree (on whatever and to what degree?) or you’re being divisive and a tool of the devil.”?
I suggest to live out Jesus’ words, those of Paul and others in God’s Word on the matter of unity also must at times, in a spirit of (Holy Spirit directly involved in our attitudes/fruit of the Spirit) conversation with grace, respect and getting at what both or all “sides” of a discussion must be WITHOUT RANCOR. How can iron-sharpening-iron happen, how can any of us ever grow to love those unlike and not in agreement with us by regularly burying our deep concerns about HOW to love God and others if we don’t have such discussions?
On the other hand, often it is not honest, open discussion being sought. It is winning, control, a whatever-it-may-be demand being met. Example- the motive of Saul over/against the motive of David. The motive of Jesus or that of the religious rulers who sparred with Him continually.
I never thought relationship to God or others was itself a lockdown of “either you/they agree with me/us or for the sake of unity (or is it uniformity you seek?) we don’t talk about it.” The rub is “Do ALL you do in love”. And that, my brothers and sisters is where we fail or grow in spiritual maturity, a maturity that it seems many in the body of Christ would rather not pay the price for.
Patience seems near the top of the list. Sometimes silence is the wise choice as per a number of texts in Proverbs and elsewhere in scripture.
So what about repentance, individual growth in Christ and church reformation?
These never happened in silence while what is also truth and fact is when we take a strong and absolute view our typical demand is for the other person/s to repent because we’re convinced they need to, not us. “What THEY think is bogus, not us and what WE believe”!
“A time to be silent and a time to speak.” -Ecclesiastes 3.7b
Note, at any time anyone could have said “That Bible translator is an agent of the devil sowing division not unity!” Oh… in history they actually did -and burned a number of them at the stake. I think power and control had a lot to do with it, don’t you?
I suggest imperfect, sinning saints who also make mistakes (note, 3 things there…) may strongly disagree and even have, in fact NEED to have conversations about things that deeply affect our witness for Jesus as well as “the least of these.”
Now, speaking as a white guy with other white folks- do you mean unity with my Black and other people of color and their churches kind of unity?
We need unity, lots of it. It costs and many are unwilling to pay the price including many of those who so often call for it.
As always, thanks for stopping by. -Glenn