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?
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.