Unity (in the church or otherwise) is a powerful concept – simple and elementary, void of innuendo.
In reality, it’s hard to grasp. Achieving it involves great acts of selflessness as we set others before our own comforts. Unity requires discipline and restraint as we consider all before speaking out. At its best, unity reconciles those who aimlessly squabble and fight. At its worst, unity glosses over opportunities for real growth in exchange for campfires and kumbaya.
Let’s face it; we are living in a culture where the push towards church unity is chanted louder than ever before. In spite of this desperate cry for oneness, it often seems we are not achieving anything. We’re divided. We’ve lost our way but maintain we are voicing our opinions for the sake of US. We babble about togetherness only to drop negligent bombs of self-serving arrogance. Too busy asserting our own views to have productive meaningful conversations, we consolidate and summarize complex issues that require hard work, compromise and deep, ugly confession. We are fleeing from the clear path towards understanding to keep cozy in our climate controlled boxes.
And, of course, with behavior like this, we’re missing it. We’re just plain missing the point. Our attempts at church unity are breathless and broken because we’ve lost our purpose.
At the core of this coveted feeling of being on the same team, we aren’t really sure what church unity offers us anymore. Why are we ruthlessly chasing this? Why do we want it so bad yet it remains agonizingly out of reach? Do we want to be unified for LGBT marriage rights? For political party affiliations? Gender equality in the church? Against your micromanaging boss at work? For the sake of the homeschool moms in your small group?
When we stop striving for unity for the sake of Jesus, we stop striving for unity at all.
We want it now. We desire warm fuzzies and camaraderie, but what lies ahead is taxing. The real journey towards unity is exhausting. We must tirelessly monitor our own itinerary, juxtaposed against the plan we are called to adhere to first and most – the will of Christ. It feels impossible, and it’s easy to get defeated. Because the truth is, unity is hard.
It starts with the honest, humble recognition that someone with polarizing views to you is, in fact, a real person — with real feelings, and real hardships. Unity happens when we realize that what we share with one another as children of God is worth so much more than ceaseless bickering.
When my husband and I got married years ago, we received advice from many seasoned couples. We were 19 and 20 when we got engaged, so you must realize, spontaneous advice came flooding down on us in droves. Some of it we were immensely thankful for and have successfully instilled in our marriage. And yes, I know it is nauseatingly cliché, but “Don’t go to bed angry” has stuck with us.
And I’m so glad it has.
At the end of a long day of work, where I’ve effectively lost my composure in an embarrassing slew of emotional explosions, I really am sorry. I love my husband and would never want to fall asleep with a hateful, hurt, or defeated heart. I want to find safety knowing we can hastily discuss our seemingly opposite views on creation after seeing he movie,Noah. I want to know he doesn’t judge me when I don’t comprehend scripture the way he does as we’re leading our small group. He needs to see it all – when I doubt my faith, fail at religion, and struggle to act right.
Each night, I can doze off, knowing that, even in our miscommunications and disagreements, we are united by something so much greater than the rings around our fingers. We are united by a great, powerful, all-seeing God.
He is what unifies us.
I don’t know about you, but the way the world sees us treating one another lately as believers, brothers and sisters, and really, as people, has led to many sleepless, going-to-bed-angry nights for me. Hear me now – I repent of getting caught up in the twisted game. I’m ready to stop being angry. I’m ready to talk (and listen) this out and work for understanding, repentance, and love. Our church unity must be found in Christ, as He is the only thing we can be certain of. Help remind one another of what binds us.
Together, let’s seek church unity in the Gospel, filled with understanding, not resistance. Holiness, not hate. Christ, not conflict.
Won’t you join me?
[Image via Katy And The Word]