We gathered for a unity prayer service last night and it was good. When Pastor Scott Wilson spoke about leaving ‘competition’ behind, about our shared mission, the congregation broke into applause. The theme of the National Day of Prayer was unity which is laudable in word but far more difficult in practice. What we celebrated in that time together has to be worked out around quirky personalities, differing world views, and unique practices.
Any married person knows that in marriage it is usually the little things that become irritants. That trait that we found so “cute” in the dating days becomes truly aggravating when we have to live with every day. I pray that we can find our way to join hands and hearts in the cause of Christ locally, becoming ‘one in Christ’ with more than tolerance. I long for a deep, abiding, committed love.
When we are born of the Spirit and baptized in faith, Paul says we are included! “You are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26-28, NLT) Unity demands that we go past knowing this to actually doing the work with esteem and love for one another.
This is not just about multiple congregations coming together. Within our own church family we need to choose more than our self-interest. When we do, we will find support, fellowship, and encouragement. Who doesn’t need that? So, why don’t more of us find the richness of relationship I’m describing? Because churches are made up of real people, flawed people, who don’t always love well.
The connections that return the kind of joy promised to those who are ‘in the Body’ require an ongoing experience of the Holy Spirit. But, consider what becomes when we learn to live in unity. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NLT) We find mutuality and interdependence, a richer and more effective Christianity!
Are you ready to make a radical commitment to a local church, something like that covenant which we make in marriage? Some Christians “date” churches endlessly, but never marry one! Thus, they never know the great joy that can only be experienced as a part of a team that is building the Kingdom of Christ. They let the superficial stuff – who was nice to me, who talked to me, who noticed me – turn into a misplaced focus that hides our shared salvation, our great hope, our true identity.
When we let the Tempter stir up feelings of resentment toward other people in Christ’s Body, we will fall into the sin of offense. When offended, we build high walls that keep us from knowing the people who are our best allies in the walk of faith. Even worse, if we let resentment loose, we will begin to attack and destroy what Christ loves! Think what it does to His heart when we tear down, for selfish reasons, the Bride (the Church) that He loves so much that He gave His life for her.
God’s plan is to use the church to demonstrate His grace and goodness to Heaven and Earth! Don’t miss out. Join up! Make a radical commitment to the work of God in your local church, and then, to the Church around the world.
Here’s a word from the Word to ponder today. “I … beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, NLT)
What could God do with people who were willing to forget themselves, to set aside difference, to embrace ‘the other’ for the sake of Christ? I believe our world is waiting to see that.
Let’s love, serve, and seek the unity of the Spirit.