Recently there was a brother in Christ who approached me after a sermon. He began to berate me and yell at me for something that he had misheard and misunderstood. However, it did get me thinking on the concept of Christian unity. We are called to live in unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. It says in the Bible that when we hold a hard feeling against our brother we should go and make amends with that brother before the sun goes down. We are called to love each other as Christ loved the church, serve each other as Christ served us. I take for my inspiration Epeshians 4:1-16:
“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, 3 being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. 7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift. 8 Therefore it says, “When He ascended on high, He led captive a host of captives, And He gave gifts to men.” 9 Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things. 11 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. 14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by that which every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”
This passage can be divided into several components with the overall theme of Christian unity. The first being maintaining the fundamental Christian unity.
Unity as Christians cannot be created because it is through the Holy Spirit. It is something that must be given by God. It must be preserved and we can preserve this through our meek and humble spirits towards our family of God. We are all the body of Christ and a body out of unity will not function and indicates signs of severe distress. We are of one faith with one Father, while fighting amongst brothers and sisters are common in the end we must maintain unified as a family, we may not like each other and that’s ok but we must never do anything to discredit the work of God. We all comes from different cultures, creeds, and backgrounds we can maintain unity in diversity.
Unity does not mean we must all follow the beat of the same drum, or to be uniformed. For example, in the Bible Paul says if a brother or sister worship in a certain way do not stop them, for as long as it is glorifying and pleasing to God it is all good. Another example of unity in our diversity is in the example of spiritual gifts. We all have different ones, some are teachers, prophets, healers, pastors, but each role is important, none is higher than the other. Each part of a human body has a specific function and role, if it is not performing that to its full capacity then the entire body suffers. It is the same with the body of Christ. And when we recognise this uniqueness in ourselves and each other we can become closer to the mind of Jesus in understanding how we are unified and connected. So an Orthodox Christian can join in common prayer with a Charasmatic Evangelical-this is the beauty of our faith. However there are characterisitics of unity to recognise and protect:
1) The ultimate measure of unity is the Lord Jesus Christ. We must always use the Bible as a guide to our interactions with other Christians. If we have a harsh conversation with a brother or sister we must consult the Bible and pray to know how to respond.
2) Unity can be measured by the stability of the church. When parishoners grumble and complain about various issues in a church it is a clear sign of disunity. But it is not the ministers job to bring about this unity. We are the ministers and it is our job to preserve and protect this unity.
3) Unity can be measured by the loving gestures we demonstrate towards each other and towards pre-believers. How can we possibly witness to people when they see us squabbling and fighting amonst ourselves?
4) Our final charactersitic of unity is maturity. As we grow in maturity in Jesus Christ the natural evolution is unity. When we are in sync with God’s will blessings, maturity, and unity of believers is inevitable. Christianity is the one faith where we do not have to work, create, or by our own merits gain the blessings and power of God, we just need to accept the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ.
5) Unity must exist not only in our church but between all churches since we are not islands unto ourselves. We loose something beautiful when we segregate ourselves.
6) Unity is useless unless we use it to bring the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to those who do not yet know him.
These are some reflections I have had and some thoughts. But what happened with that parishoner who ripped me a new one? I tried to reconcile with him, he wasn’t very keen, when we try to reconcile even if the person does not want to, we have done all we can and must commit it unto God. The Bible says we must try to live as peacekeepers, it says try because we will fail at one point or another. The brother in Christ left our church and from what I have heard has come and gone through several churches. Unity can be preserved but first we must push our hearts and minds closer to God.