Week One: Unity Without Uniformity
“Condemn no one for not thinking as you think. Let every one enjoy the full and free liberty of thinking for themself. Let every person use their own judgment, since every one must give an account of themselves to God. Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade someone into the truth, never attempt to force them into it. If love will not compel them to come, leave them to God, the judge of all.” - John Wesley
Monday, September 2
What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was cruciﬁed with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:1-11)
Conversations about unity within the church should always begin by discussing our call to seek unity with God through Jesus Christ. That might seem like an unlikely place to start for some people. After all, human beings obviously have a diﬃcult time getting along with each other — and we share so much in common. Surely unity with the Creator of the universe is harder to imagine! And yet, at the heart of the Christian gospel is the amazing revelation that God became human in Jesus so that we might follow the path of Christ and be united with God.
Being united with God in Christ through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit is the driving vision of who we are called to be. Followers of Jesus sometimes forget this. We become so caught up in our day-to-day responsibilities, so worried about making a living, so focused on achieving our goals that we often settle for far less than unity with the divine. But Christians should not abandon our eﬀorts to experience deep spiritual connection with God.
“How is it with your soul?” John Wesley regularly posed that question to the ﬁrst Methodists. It was his way of asking, “how is your spiritual journey with God going? Are you being led by God’s Spirit each day?” If you do not already have a daily devotional time for reading the Bible, reﬂection, and prayer, we invite you to allow this study to help you develop a daily spiritual practice. Consider using the questions at the end of each day’s reading for your reﬂection time.
However, whatever you do, please pray for our congregation over these next three weeks. Our hope is that God will use the time leading up to our combined outdoor worship service on September 22 to enable us to ﬁnd deeper unity. Draw near to God and, in addition to your prayers for your family, friends, and yourself, invite the Holy Spirit to bring the comfort, encouragement, correction, and guidance we need to grow as a community of faith.
• Consider John Wesley’s comment, “Abhor every approach, in any kind or degree, to the spirit of persecution, if you cannot reason nor persuade someone into the truth, never attempt to force them into it.” When has someone tried to force you into “truth” as they perceived it? How did you respond? Why do such eﬀorts fail?
• When have you been so caught up in your day-to-day responsibilities and worries that you settled for something less than you should in your relationship with God?
• How is it with your soul? Have you found a routine of spiritual practice that feels comfortable and fulﬁlling for you? What spiritual practices seem to work the best for you? What spiritual practices have you tried that didn’t work well for you? If not, who or what can might help you better care for your soul?