Sunday, September 8
Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped oﬀ the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all! As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:9-15)
So, Community looks like a place of unity, meaning we are committed to one another in spite of our diﬀerences. We certainly hear that sentiment echoed by Paul in Colossians. He celebrates that all (“Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised...”) are one in Christ, but then quickly transitions into a call for compassion, patience, and forgiveness as complaints against one another are worked out. The early Church was no more idyllic than the modern. We all need love to bind us together.
Obviously, unity is not the result of having no disagreements. Christian unity is the result of the community knowing we are bound together by Christ our Lord in the midst of our struggles.
But even that level of unity will not be easy. It will require our best. To achieve it we must maintain a healthy relationship with God; confront our fears, anger, confusion, and the sin which arises from them; continue having conversations with those who disagree with us; forgive others the way Jesus forgives us; and receive the forgiveness of others when we are in the wrong. (Remember, forgiveness is not the same as believing that what the other person did was acceptable or good. Forgiveness does not mean pretending it was not hurtful. Forgiveness is choosing to not hold what has happened against the other person - to seek what is best for them.)
Thankfully, the reward is great. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can be made one in Christ. Being part of a loving, supportive community built on the grace provided by Christ is worth our best eﬀorts. The question is whether we are willing, individually and communally, to put in the time and eﬀort necessary to make real Christian unity possible.
• How do you want God to forgive you: unconditionally or with stipulations? Why?
• Jesus teaches that we will be forgiven to the extent we have forgiven others (Matthew 6:14-15). How are you doing at oﬀering unconditional forgiveness to others?
• What is one practical step you/our congregation could take to promote unity without uniformity in our church?
• Are there individuals with whom you disagree and need to forgive? Or whom you need to ask to forgive you?