Be One

by | May 14, 2020 | Unity | 2 comments

Unity. it is the most elusive of all aspects of our calling as believers.

It is also the most challenging. Everything in our flesh and in the enemy’s arsenal of schemes pulls us apart. We live in a culture that incentivizes self-concern, rewards individual achievement and idolizes self-promotion.

Division has been a part of the history for church in the West struggles for ages. As far back as the 4th century, political ambitions led to excommunicating those in the minority. There were a host of reasons for the Great Schism in 1054 between the church in Constantinople and Rome, but ultimately it came down to (as one historian put it), “They lost the will to unify.” Some of the Reformers chose not to extend “the right hand of fellowship” to each other. After the Reformation, a spirit of denominationalism took hold and it became standard practice differentiate churches based on perceived priorities.

We’ve inherited this practice and the subtle attitudes that go along with it. It saturates the church in the West as one of its most obvious realities (to those with eyes to see it). Most local churches function competitively and independently from each other.

The Opportunity

I challenge and encourage all believers toward a different practice: Be one, like Jesus and God the Father. Jesus prayed about his desire for us on his way to the cross:

“I pray … that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (‭‭John‬ ‭17.21, NAS)

Consider this: The Lord has sovereignly set the stage for the fulfillment of the Great Commission in the not-too-distant future. The church in the West is on the threshold of embracing a disciple-multiplying approach, creating the opportunity to move beyond denominational and traditional boundaries and—perhaps for the first time ever in the West—to live out true, biblical unity.

The Challenge

But we must be intentional. There are different streams of disciple-making movement (DMM) practice and priorities, but the principles behind them are the same. Our minor differences are like the varieties of gifts that strengthen us (see Rom. 12.1-8)—but only if we have the will to unify.

“Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all…” (Eph. 4.3-6)

This passage is about all parts of the body working together to build the church into the fullness of Jesus. But we will never experience this collaboration without first being humble and loving toward each other in the spirit of unity.

The Heart of Our King

Unity is not only our calling, it’s the process by which we are made into Jesus’ image:

“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” (‭‭John‬ ‭17:21-23‬, NAS, emphasis mine)

Let us not shrink back into the convenience and worldliness of petty division, following the model we inherited from our past. Instead, let us reach forward to embrace God’s purpose for our lives: to emulate the Father-Son’s divine love with each other in our time.

Let us be one.

Damian Gerke is called to help individuals and churches experience genuine transformation into the identity of Jesus. He is on the leadership team of 1Body Church. Damian is married to Cheryl, his wife of 30+ years, and they have three grown children.

Damian has a diverse background that includes working as a design engineer in the aerospace industry, in vocational pastoral ministry and as a human resources learning and development manager. He has also maintained a leadership coaching practice, helping both ministry and marketplace leaders excel in their roles.

He is an author (Taking the Lead: What Riding a Bike Can Teach You About Leadership). He blogs regularly about leadership and life issues at DamianGerke.com, as well as faith and church leadership issues here at 1Body.church. He's also a Certified Professional in Talent Development (CPTD) through the Association for Talent Development, and will soon complete the Associate Certified Coach (ACC) credential process through the International Coaching Federation.

2 Comments

  1. Jim H

    In His high priestly prayer for His people in John 17, Christ pleads for the Father to “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” In 2 Tim 2:15, Paul exhorts, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” Christians must be unified, can only be unified, in the truth. Some of the schisms you’ve cited occurred for sinful reasons, but many were separations over biblical truth – what the Scriptures really say about critical issues, including how we should live our lives together as local churches. Right exegesis of the word of God must be our test for whether we can be unifed with others who profess to be Christians but may be deceived. May we never see unity as preferable to heresy, the view expressed by Episcopal Bishop Peter Lee on June 4, 2004: “As a heretic, you are only guilty of a wrong opinion, As a schismatic, you have torn and divided the body of Christ. Choose heresy every time.”

    Reply
    • Damian Gerke

      Jim – Good insight, and I totally agree: We are sanctified in the truth, and so should be unified in the truth. I’m not at all suggesting that heresy is preferable to unity. The issue, I believe, comes in defining the scope of “truth”. Some of the separations in the church have been about critical doctrines (such as Arianism and the question of Jesus’ deity); many others were not. The issues cited in the Great Schism were around things like type of bread used for communion or how old should babies be when baptized. I don’t mean to be trite about this, it is a serious and challenging issue to resolve. Clearly some things are more important than others, so where do we draw the line for “right exegesis”?
      Perhaps the important question is: What do you think Jesus meant about us being one as he and the Father are one? Clearly he thought it was possible or he wouldn’t have prayed for it. Which is more reflective of Jesus’ desire for us: A) functioning in loving unity, or B) breaking fellowship over our interpretations of things like eschatology (belief in end-times events) or the validity of the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit? I would argue that the one thing that holds genuine believers together is so much more foundational than the many things that we’ve allowed to pull us apart.
      As a side-note, I find it curious that most of the controversial questions I dealt with in 15 years of legacy church ministry (e.g. “Is the gift of tongues valid?”, “Which perspective is Biblical: Calvinism or Arminianism?”, “Will there really be a rapture?”, etc.) rarely come up in a disciple-making movement approach. I can’t say for sure, but I tend to think it’s because the main thing people focus on in a DMM approach is hearing God and responding in faithful obedience to what he says. Those questions—while certainly valid and worthy of discussion—are truly secondary to the call to surrender our lives to Jesus, take up his cross and follow him as his ambassadors.

      Reply

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