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.
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.
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.