Wednesday, September 4
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)
We began this week by reﬂecting on how our relationship with God provides the basis for how we interact as Christians in community. With that in mind, it is not surprising that our ﬁrst hint of how to envision unity in the Church is found by examining what we mean by “unity with God.” Pause for a moment and ask yourself, “what does unity with God look like?”
Obviously, unity with God is not based on our ability to think or act perfectly like the divine. If that were the requirement, none of us would draw near to God, let alone ﬁnd unity. As God says in Isaiah 55:8, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” That is all the more reason why God’s incarnation as Jesus matters! His interaction with people is a great place for us to look to learn how God connects with others.
Unlike many religious leaders of his day, Jesus acknowledges the presence and importance of all people, even treating those whom the culture shunned with compassion. He converses with all sorts: men, women, Pharisees, ﬁshermen, tax collectors, zealots, prostitutes, etc. He honors and addresses their concerns without manipulation or exploitation. When necessary, he acts against his own self-interest for the good of others. In other words, Jesus does not wait until people agree with him to connect and build relationships with them.
In light of our Lord’s actions, Christian unity is also driven by a desire to acknowledge, honor, and uplift one another, whether we are in agreement or not. This basic truth is very important to understand because unity in the church is diﬃcult to achieve when we confuse unity with uniformity. They are diﬀerent. Whereas uniformity demands that we see the world from the same perspective and agree with one another about priorities, “Unity” is the ability to remain connected and seek what is best for the community, while recognizing that each individual is a child of God who needs support on their unique journey.
Paul understands this distinction. In 1 Corinthians 12, he describes the Church as a body with many members. What a profound, yet easy-to-understand, metaphor! Just as our physical bodies need a diverse set of “members” (eyes, arms, feet, etc.), so does the Body of Christ. We share one Spirit, one baptism, and one Lord, but it is our diversity that makes it possible for us to accomplish anything. Unity amidst diversity was a recurring theme in the Apostle’s writing.
Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justiﬁed by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:23-28)
If Paul had lived today, he might have chosen the metaphor of the church as an orchestra. Imagine God as the conductor of an enormous symphony with each of us playing our own unique instrument. It is not enough that each of us plays our instrument well. We must tune our various instruments to be in harmony with each other, play our own unique part, and play the tune which God is leading!
When our lives are in tune with one another and we respond to God’s leadership, the diverse Body of Christ discovers unity in God. The music coming from your trombone may not sound like the clash of my cymbals — or your passion for missions may not look exactly like my love of building maintenance — but we each have a part to play. Unity, not uniformity.
• What are the consequences of a congregation demanding uniformity? In what ways (spoken and/or unspoken) has our congregation demanded uniformity in the past?
• Do you believe our congregation demands uniformity in some way now?
• If unity is deﬁned as “the ability to remain connected and seek what is best for the community, while recognizing that each individual is a child of God who needs support on his or her unique journey,” then how is our congregation doing at achieving unity? With 0 being no unity and 100 being totally uniﬁed, what grade would you give First Church? What might help us move toward 100?