Uniformity – (i) – (form) = Unity
Christians for centuries have mistakenly believed that the way to achieve the unity Jesus prayed for (John 17) is through uniformity.
Wrong. Pretty sure about that. Here’s why I think so:
First of all, unity isn’t ours to achieve, but to maintain (Ephesians 4:3).
Secondly, there has always been room for diversity in the body of Christ, including political opinion. A quick review of the apostles’ views will confirm that; they ranged from tax collector/collaborator to zealot. We are all different members of the body, with differing gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14).
Finally, while there are core beliefs to which every Christian pledges his/her soul, there are other beliefs that are interpretation, which is a churchy way to say “opinion.” There are things that man says and things that Christ says. They don’t always overlap. We’re not always going to agree on opinions; and a short review of Romans 14 will verify that, as well as advise us on how to deal with it.
The real barrier to unity has been our opinions, hasn’t it?
- I know what form of worship should be used.
- I know what form of atonement was in operation at the cross and the tomb.
- I know what form the Holy Spirit takes regarding beleivers.
- I know what form of millennium will shape the future.
- I know what form of day God meant when describing the span of His creation.
And so on and on and on. No others need apply.
Wow. It really sounds as arrogant as it truly is when I phrase it that way. Yet we’re convinced that we have to – and do – know all the answers in order to have a relationship with God.
This whole walk with Christ is a matter of faith, not knowledge (2 Corinthians 5:7). We have enough knowledge to know who God is, that He loves us, that His Son died for us and lived again so that we could too and that He wants us to live as He lived: humbly, lovingly, self-sacrificingly.
If there’s anything that Job learned from his encounter with the-God-who-showed-up, it’s that you don’t have to know all the answers in order to have a relationship with God (Job 40-42).
So, I’m thinking we don’t have to leave all of our opinions at the church door.
There’s room enough inside for folks who want to believe that God wants to save everyone and will; and for those who want to believe that God wants to save everyone yet won’t.
There’s room enough inside for believers who want to believe we should rejoice that justice was done at the death of Osama Bin Laden and for those who want to mourn yet another soul who did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord.
There’s room enough inside for people who think they know all about God and for those who are just beginning to realize they don’t know much about God at all, but sure want to.
What there isn’t room for is putting up an opinion-poll table next to a crossing gate at the church door and only admitting the folks whose opinions line up with our own.
You see, that violates the very Spirit of the prayer Jesus prayed in the presence of those very diverse disciples on the night He was betrayed by one of them:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
For too many centuries, we believers have clung to the opinion that we’ve all got to be and believe exactly the same thing, down to the last opinion … we’ve been wrong. We’ve divided over opinions. We’ve decided that our right opinions were worth our effectiveness as ambassadors of the one kingdom of the one God through His one Christ.
Being brought to complete unity lies in accepting the simple glory of the simple Christ, a radiance that the simple of heart can see in those who love each other and give themselves up for each other the same way that their Lord did.
(This post is part of the synchroblog inspired by Rachel Held Evans’ “Rally to Restore Unity.” Be sure to look her up and all of the other synchrobloggers who are hoping to remove a few bricks from a few walls dividing believers. And while you’re at it, send a few bucks to Charity: Water, the beneficiary of this little online experiment. Right now, my region – Central Arkansas – is aflood and our own water safety could be at risk within hours. Find out what Charity: Water does to improve water quality in developing nations.)