This past Sunday, I shared some thoughts on unity. For the Church to be what Jesus calls us to be, unity must be a priority of everyone. It’s my job, and it’s your job — because unity only happens when every one of us takes seriously our responsibility to do the hard work of loving, challenging, and encouraging one another.
When we work hard at unity, we not only become the family of God we are called to be, but we also show the world what God looks like. For God is one. And in Him, we are one. And we live this out so that the world might be won. That’s not my idea; that’s Jesus (John 17.20-23).
So, let me challenge you to take unity seriously. Whether you are old or young, male or female, a leader or a follower — do your part for unity. Roll up your sleeves and help Fern Creek (or whatever church is your family) grow together as one.
Specifically, let me reiterate three ways I mentioned Sunday that you can help build the unity of our church:
- Deal with stuff. If there is something going on between you and someone else, take the initiative to deal with it. Talk with them. Listen to them. Allow God to bring understanding and grace and healing where there was frustration and hurt feelings. Don’t sit on stuff; or gossip about it; or pout about it. Take the step of dealing with it.
- Get to know someone completely different than you. How cool would it be if in our church everyone made a point of getting to know someone who is on the opposite end of the spectrum: whether it is age difference, or language, or economic situation, or even how you think church should be done. The way we break down walls of difference is not pretend like they don’t exist, or ignore them, but learn to love through them. And the only way to do that is to get to know others who are very different than you. Not to change them, but to love them.
- Remember that church is not a consumer relationship, but a covenant relationship. On Sunday I shared the story of a man who used Close-Up toothpaste for seven years but is now suing the company, because in all those years, not once did he get a date. (Well, I guess you could sue over that, but it might just be easier to switch to Crest.) Now, his expectations might have been skewed, but his is an extreme example of how a consumer relationship works: I buy something, and it meets my expectations. If it doesn’t, then I move on to another product. That mindset may work when it comes to toothpaste; it is deadly when it comes to the Church. We are called into a covenant relationship — one where our wholeness and restoration come through the death of Jesus. A covenant relationship means we belong to Him — and each other. And unlike a consumer relationship, we don’t trade each other in for a newer model. Instead, we recognize that we are family — and family grows best by sticking with each other through the months and the years, and through the good times and the bad.
Remember that what binds us together is not what you feel, or even what you feel about others in our church. Church is not simply a collection of preferences, and our unity is not dependent on all of us liking the preaching, or the music, or the programs. Church unity is not even about us agreeing on everything.
Instead, what holds us together is not any of those things. It’s Jesus. And if you are holding onto Jesus, then you are holding onto His Church. After all, isn’t that what unity is all about?