Unity, is an interesting topic.Unity our first glimpse of unity is within the character of God himself, having both diversity and unity within the Godhead.One of the earliest statements from God on the human condition was about unity, ‘it is not good for a person to be alone’, which seems at odds with our massively individualistic culture.John Donne said: “no man is an island”, we were created for relationship, we created to be united with each other and with God.God created a diverse universe, and yet before the fall there was unity within that diversity.So, unity, what’s there to say?
If you forgive me I’m going to go around the houses a bit as I think about unity.
Sometimes we think we are being unified is meaning a vaguely pleasant relationship with the other local Churches, we might even sit through the occasional Churches Together meeting -or Fraternals- where traditionally we spend our time dipping rich tea biscuits into weak coffee in a ‘church hall green’ cup with a saucer avoiding any topic which might be contentious.
This isn’t unity.
This is a veneer of unity.
Unity is not a bland tolerance of each other, nor it is passive or pointless as so many things that sometimes wear the ‘unity’ badge can be.
In fact sometimes those of us who are passionate about unity often paradoxically are the people who also people who rock the boat.
I believe unity is pointless unless we are united IN something. We as Christians are united IN Christ.
We often forget that scripture calls us primarily to ‘seek first the Kingdom of God’ yet too often although we pay lip service to this command of Christ, we don’t live it out, our primary directive.
Our primary aim is to seek the mission statement of Jesus when he taught his disciples to pray “may your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”…
I recently spoke at a men’s event about passion, because I believe apathy is what is crippling much of the Church in this area and across both our nation and western Europe too, we are not seeking God’s Kingdom on earth as in heaven, other things are getting out of perspective and this is why unity breaks down.
It is a call to carry our cross, a call on the narrow way, a call to go out like sheep among wolves, it is a difficult tight rope to walk, one that will at times not make us popular. A call to challenge in love our brothers and sisters in Christ, it is also a challenge to let our brothers and sisters in Christ challenge us (also hopefully in love).
We are united in the one in whom there are no male or female, black or white, rich or poor, jew or gentile, ordained or lay person, but makes us all one IN him.
Also apathy is indifferent to each other, so overlooks the commands to love, to ‘each others needs to prefer’, true biblical unity is a surrender to God of our own ideas, agendas and baggage… the greatest key for unity is both love, grace and wisdom, we don’t have to agree on everything, there are some issues where our theological differences make partnering difficult in some instances, but we are called to love one another, we are called to serve one another, it’s not up to us to pick our team, but to us to work with those whom God sets alongside us, ultimately God is the team captain not us.
If we are going to be people that seek first the Kingdom of God, then much of our differences fall away, in fact when we engage in mission our pettiness suddenly seems much less important than it was.
I’ll close with an image from the crucifixion where Jesus was carrying his cross, and I suspect was praying “God help me carry this cross”, he trips and falls and Simon of Cyrene helps him carry his cross, a picture of vertical and horizontal living; God I need to help carry my cross, I need you -my brothers and sisters in Christ- to help me carry my cross….
…and by the way, I will help you carry yours too.