Unity Among Christians

Jerry Butler Discipleship Leave a Comment

Three girls, one man-child and two dogs: the contents of my humble household. It sounds crazy, but I am a blessed man. Many things have changed over the years. Our girls are in college, two of them out in their own apartment, and my man-child seems to grow at an exponential rate. Throughout all of the ups and downs of family life, an unending source of amazement for me rests in my wife’s limitless affection and love for our children. You see, she pours herself into them. This wonderful and strong woman, absorbs their hurts, rejoices in their victories both great and small, rebukes when necessary and illuminates the path she wants them to follow. It is a tough and messy business raising children. Yet, my wife does so with an eloquence that is truly exquisite and a sight to behold. One of the many hats my wife has worn is that of a High School Marching Band Booster. Her duties included things like coordinating volunteers, bus assignments, acting as a chaperone to events and keeping track of hormone filled teenage band kids.

One of the largest events she managed was a performance downtown at a professional hockey game (the Dallas Stars in this case).

Now, as the obedient Father, when asked if I would like to help chaperone this event of course I said, “Heck Yeah!! No Problem!” Seriously?, a quick performance then free seats to a hockey game! WHOO HOO!! Easiest decision ever! Here comes the dose of reality… post acceptance of said offer… I am informed that I have been assigned to the loading crew. A crew that is, “slow and needs help getting organized”. Well, OK. Next I discover I have been assigned to the infamous Bus #6. This is the bus where they mix Cheerleaders with Band kids, a combination akin to mixing gun powder and gasoline and lighting a match. AWESOME! However, it is this particular detail which sparked my interest. I mean, you should have seen the look on my daughters face at the time when she learned that she would be joining me on Bus #6! NOT HAPPY… and while funny it got me thinking.

Interesting how naturally divisive we humans are. I mean, how many ways do we set up lines of division? Here is a test: Finish this sentence, “I am different from you because _______”. I am sure anyone could think of a thousand different ways to end that phrase. Obvious differentiators are based on race, gender, religious beliefs, or skin-color; however, there are so many more to choose from. The mania creeps into to almost every aspect of our lives. Education, family, culture, even our choice of clothing is often employed as criteria for being in or out of this or that circle/group. In my daughter’s case aforementioned, this culminated in the form of membership… Awesome Band Kids vs. EVIL Cheerleaders. Now before you go and get all hot and bothered let me throw the disclaimer out here. YES, I understand that diversity in God’s created order paints a complex and beautiful landscape. YES, I understand that if we were all the same, the world would be a very un-interesting place. YES, I understand that while we are all unique and different, we all have something, some gift/talent to be offered for the good of this world. But that is not what I am thinking about at all. What I am talking about is unity as God’s intent and our willfulness to undermine it. True, some of our attempt to segment and differentiate is trival, but the total effect is always the same: Separation. And separation when left unchecked and unbalanced, coupled with the selfishness inherent to every human being, breeds a lack of charity, social distance and ultimately social indifference or outright apathy. In its very worst form as prejudice, we even virtually deny others a shared humanity.

So what are we to do…?

“All for ONE, and one for ALL!” So cries the musketeer in the famous novel by Alexander Dumas. These days however, the cry seems to go something like, “Me for ME, and You for YOU”! Thanks Post-Modernism! In a world that begins with skepticism, Unity can be a hard thing to come by. Don’t believe me? Just watch the proceedings of the next session of Congress on CSPAN.

Yet, in the midst of our human tendency to introduce differentiation we are called to a life of Love, Unity and Forgiveness as personified in the living example of our savior, Jesus Christ. We are called to love our enemies and to pray for those that persecute us. So where do we begin?

Perhaps it begins with the simple truth that we all share the same humanity and are all children of the same heavenly Father. In the words of Christ himself, God “… makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.”

The essential work of the divine love is to unite, to bring together the fragments of a once perfect creation on a higher level where the redeemed humanity of Christ lights the way to our own redemption. For Christians that divine love is now an essential part of our inner life. But how does it manifest itself in the way we live? Are we a people in whom that love shines out? Are we truly God-Bearers? Or to the casual observer, do we appear as locked into our petty squabbles and ego trips as the next person? These are the types of questions we must face and answer with the utmost honesty.

Now, you might be saying, No matter how hard I try I cannot bring myself to like so and so! She is just so blaahhh! How can I LOVE that person?

Well the answer I think is two-fold…

Remember that Christ COMMANDS us to Love. It is not a suggestion.
John 13:34 (NKJV) 34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Second, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that we need to like someone in order to love them. On the level of sentimental love, I am sure that liking and loving go hand in hand. However, when we are talking about Christian love we are talking about a kind of love that is costly in nature…sacrificial and self-giving. The cost can take many forms. It might mean not responding to insults or violence. It might mean not closing the door on a relationship even though a great deal of hurt has been done. ( or even sitting on a bus with wicked cheerleaders)

Christian love inevitably involves sacrifice: it is the way of the Cross.
Christian love inevitably involves sacrifice: it is the way of the Cross. The good news is that when we follow this commandment we also enter into the power of the Resurrection. Now… I know it is hard! To love another in this manner is sometimes a sheer act of will and obedience! But when we love like this… when we can throw off our limitations and simply love someone as Christ has loved us, we begin to understand and think like Christ. I have found that more often than not, when I take this step into the unknown in Faith looking to God for strength that Grace always follows, while unity and healing ensues.

Now for the last and I think the most important aspect of this sort of Love. It is not something we are truly capable of achieving in our fallen state. Outside a living relationship with Christ, every love has a selfish outlook.

We humans, through God’s grace, are capable of extraordinary acts of love and kindness. When we reach down and touch that part of us that connects with our maker (whether we are aware of where it comes from or not), and understand that in sacrifice, in giving, we discover a richness in life beyond description, amazing things take place. It is like having a beautiful violin that is not in tune. We know that it is capable of unutterable harmony, but we cannot pull out the full potential of the music until we master the ability to tune the instrument. Our conception of love is an echo of the divine love, sometimes more, sometimes less perfectly achieved. What grace helps us to do is to deepen our ability to love as Christ loves, to tune the instrument of our heart to HIM and to go beyond our mortality to something eternal.

Through Christ we are not only recipients of a peace that surpasses all understanding, but also recipients of a love and forgiveness that surpasses mere human understanding. Therein truly lies the distinctiveness of the Christian. We love, but we also pray for the grace to love as Christ loves…Because Christ loves us.

The infinite resources of heaven are at our disposal, but too often we struggle to love on our own strength.
The infinite resources of heaven are at our disposal, but too often we struggle to love on our own strength. To love those we do not like.. to pray for those who would persecute us is simply beyond our ability. Always remember that through prayer we can open the floodgates of God’s grace. Recall the words of the apostle James: “you do not have, because you do not ask”. I would never ask my six-year-old son to fetch a box from the garage that weighs 100 pounds. It is beyond his ability. Our Lord might ask us to do something uncomfortable, but two things are certain, (1) He will always equip me to perform any task he has commanded, never asking that which with his help is impossible to achieve and (2) He will be there by my side to encourage and help.

Within the Church, inside the current age, the message and truth of Unity in Christ desperately needs to be preached, heard and exemplified. Paul, writing the church at Phillipi said:

Philippians 2:1 – 4 (NIV) 1If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2then make my joy complete by being like–minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. 3Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.

One commentary on this verse explained the message well, so it is with that I will end:

“Unity ought to be a distinctive mark among Christians. Many people—even Christians—live only to make a good impression on others or to please themselves. But selfishness brings discord. Paul therefore stressed spiritual unity, asking the Philippians to love one another and to be one in spirit and purpose. When we work together, caring for the problems of others as if they were our problems, we demonstrate Christ’s example of putting others first, and we experience unity. Don’t be so concerned about making a good impression or meeting your own needs that you strain relationships in God’s family.”

Let us stand together, praying for God’s grace, mercy and guidance, and when the path is laid before us, let us together rely on his strength and have the courage and fortitude to follow where he leads. Let us stand together and cry out with one voice and one heart the good news of the Gospel to all. Let us stand together as one and give thanks for all that God in Jesus Christ has done for us. Let us stand together and extend a love to everyone without condition or expectation, simply because He loved us in like manner.

Share This Post

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *