Unity?

Unity?

A week or so ago I posed the question on my blog Facebook page, if you had a choice in something to tackle with words, what would you want me to write about?

One of the answers was unity.

In a blog of self discovery, recovery, and restoration… in a blog about learning somehow  to trust and really believe in God’s providential care, how could I possibly address the concept of unity?

Unity?

I grew up in Churches of Christ. I am thankful for my heritage. I owe it a lot. But the truth is, even though we might claim a return to New Testament Christianity, we have a long way to go when it comes to unity among ourselves as well as Christianity at large. And (heresy alert!), I have had reason to wonder if there are certain concepts the ancient church took for granted that we in our modern rational context have failed to grasp.

Unity?

And yet, Jesus prayed in John 17, My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

So how does that work when we are so divided and fractured over stuff that causes some to go ballistic?

I am also reminded of Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:1-6, As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

So where do we go from here?

What does it mean to have unity?

How is unity even possible?

I suspect genuine theologians would have some much more in-depth answers.

And yet? Does everything theological have to be difficult? Do we have to make things more complicated than they already are?

Why can’t some answers be simple?

I used to say God had to have an amazing sense of humor. He made giraffes, didn’t he?   And he made men and women with fundamental differences and told us to love each other and get along. How crazy funny is that?

I think unity can and should boil down to this:

  1. I don’t have all knowledge and understanding–what wisdom I do posses resides in a body and mind prone to mistakes, pride, and well, completely missing the point and getting it (whatever doctrine, idea, tradition, etc.) wrong.
  2. If I am capable of mistakes, and you are too, can we not stop arguing, cut each other some slack, and get along–recognizing that our shared goal is getting closer to God?

Too simple? Probably for many, but it is where I am…

Here’s how I got there: My tragedy and loss–my grief, heartache, and despair had me closer to sucking on the end of a gun barrel to stop the pain than I want to admit. At least out loud. At least in this public forum.

Pain like that has a way of clarifying issues–or rather rendering them impotent, stupid, and irrelevant.

I no longer have time to debate or argue the merits of my understanding against yours in all the many ways we have divided ourselves in the world of Christianity.

It’s all I can do to keep the spark of faith flickering… It’s all I can do to to keep wrestling with God… so arguing with other Christians about the differences in our understanding just doesn’t make much sense.

Unity? I want a better understanding of God–a more vibrant and trusting relationship with Him. And if that’s the road you are traveling–if you are striving to be one through Jesus, then united we will be in spite of the things we understand differently.

Honestly? I hope I never lose this simple idea of unity…

Les Ferguson, Jr.

 

14 thoughts on “Unity?

  1. Since leaving churches of Christ about 7 years ago, I’ve been amazed at how little all these “issues” really matter. Where we’ve been worshipping the past 5 years, there is such a focus on outreach, I’ve yet to notice an “issue” in this community of faith. I’m sure they are there, but even serving as an elder for a year and a half, we just didn’t have to deal with all this stuff. Quite refreshing.
    As for your simplistic approach (the 1 and 2 you listed), I’ve been there a long time. Makes sense to me.

  2. Seems that Jesus is saying in John 17 that unity is how the world will know Jesus. Could it be that Satan is using our disunity to keep the world from knowing Jesus? Shame on us.

  3. Tough subject and I commend you for taking a stab at it. Until we stop worrying about non-salvation issues, there will always be strife. We are so very human and each sees through his/her own filter, unfortunately. Let’s all pray: “We are one in the Spirit; we are one in the Lord; and we pray that all unity will one day be restored; and they’ll know we are Christians by our love!” Miss you, the boys and your sweet daughter-in-law! And from all you’ve said about Becky, I already love her, too! Hangest thou in there, Brother.

  4. Sue – I agree with you in principal about the “non-salvation” issues however, using the same logic that Les point’s out in points 1 and 2, we can’t even agree on what the salvation issues are. For some reason we (particularly the CoC tribe of whom I am one) still act like we have to get all the pieces and parts right to earn salvation. We won’t say it that way but ask any traditional coc’er and they will tell you that you have to hear, believe, repent, confess and be baptized in order to go to heaven. And let’s not forget about the “pattern” of worship that is the only acceptable way to worship God. By following these “patterns” we earn God’s gracious gift of heaven.

    Jesus boiled it down to loving God, loving each other and serving each other. It seems as though we (christians – CoC’ers, Baptists, Methodists, etc) have tried to make it much more complicated than it needs to be and in my opinion (and that is all it is) we did that to try to get people to join “our” particular groups.

    I was a “pharisee of pharisees” relying way too much on what I thought I knew about the Bible instead of what I know about Jesus and His love. Now I am a recovering pharisee just trying to Love God, Love Others and Serve all that I can. If we can unite on that we can change the world.

  5. There is a great book that I read called What the Churches of Christ Must Do To Be Saved. By Leroy Garrett.
    This book was written 20 years ago and so revelant to today. This is not a book that bashes the COC but a man that is still active to this day in the COC and loves the church and sees what is happening and maybe what could be done to change things. Really good stuff.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Les. I suspect I may have been one that suggested you write about unity. I was in a very exclusive group for a long time. Now, after doing a “one-eighty,” I have made unity a main focus of my Christian walk. I read a book, “Evangelical Reunion,” in which the author pointed out that we are, in reality, seeking reunion. For a very brief period of time, the early church was unified. I broadened that “reunion” concept, as C. S. Lewis did also, to begin a small ministry, now mostly confined to the Internet, some years ago, Christian Reunion Ministries. Again, thanks so much for addressing this. Without unity, the Body of Christ, although joined in the Holy Spirit, remains largely ineffective, wounded and bloodied by our arguing and bickering. I cannot count the times I have heard the non-believer opine that “Christians can’t even agree among themselves on what to believe, so why should I believe?” Our own disunity is arguably the greatest stumbling block to evangelism.

  7. One of the great things about blogging in forums like Facebook and your blog is the way that we can be exposed to different points of view. Even today, I had a great debate about what the image of God looks like. To me it is not arguing but testing our ideas and understanding the ideas of others. These discussions are often challenging and humbling but I would not trade them for anything.

    I think that unity that comes easy look more like acquiescence. LBJ once said:

    “If two men agree on everything, you may be sure that one of them is doing the thinking.”

    Unity comes at great expense to our pride and with much humble dialog. Yet it is so worth the effort if we really want it. Sadly most do not really want it and are not interesting in getting out of their small boxes.

  8. Great post! I really liked the questions you raised in it! Especially the question, “why can’t some answers be simple?” The call to unity is a difficult task I know. But it seems like one of those things that we’ve done a really good job at overcomplicating. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  9. Les,
    Thank you so much for this particular blog post. It struck a chord in my heart. Like yourself, I grew up in the same CofC tradition and although it has provided a solid moral foundation and an extensive biblical education, I still struggle with truth versus tradition. Many ideas that are espoused in the Church today are unfortunately traditions that have been passed down through generations and are now unquestionably recognized as biblical truth. Why does man make Christianity more difficult than it has to be?
    Why can’t we get the simple true message of the Gospel that Jesus came to Earth to share? His message was one of love and inclusion not one of condemnation and exclusion.
    The old law was nailed to the cross to abolish condemnation and exclusion and the ritualistic traditions which were necessary to earn Salvation. We can never do enough to earn our Salvation so why does the Church continue to negate the gift of Grace by preaching tradition instead of truth?
    It is my opinion, and I am only speculating, that there will not be subdivisions in Heaven but instead, Unity of all Christians raising our voices with the Angel choir to sing songs of praise and worship to our King, the creator of all heaven and Earth.
    It saddens and disheartens me to think that I must wait until my return to Heaven to experience Unity because it is absent in the Church today.
    God Bless You and Your Ministry!
    Cheryl

  10. Can I tell you once again how much I admire the raw emotion you have so bravely chosen to share here? While it was nothing like the hell you and your family have endured, i can identify with entertaining thoughts of taking ones own life. It’s a scary dark place that i wish on no one. Gods grace to you all…and please keep writing.

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