June 30, 2008

unity

I am a broken record. I've mentioned before that unity within the body of Christ is a burden/calling on my heart. It is my great hope and my great frustration. On the top of my head there are three major barriers that cause division in the Church. Institutional Denominations, Race, & theological doctrine (both in belief and in practice). They are not intrinsically evil in of themselves but rather a myriad of strengths within God's diverse family that have become weaknesses. The causes of this is the effect sin continues to have on earth and humanity. Chaos is breaking us down along with creation. We are prone to selfishness which divides. Another cause is the presence of a personal and active evil that seeks to divide what God seeks to bring together.

In my experience, unity within in the universal body of Christ has been able to happen in events that have certain characteristics to them. The first most common multi-faceted gathering would be that of the pentecostal or charismatic persuasion. This is perhaps the easiest these days because during a time of worship in which the power of the Holy Spirit is heavily sought after, doctrine is usually the first to get pushed aside. Methods and different expressions of the faith are temporarily put on hold but it's usually one style that refuses to compromise from the start. With just the gifts of the Spirit and no the fruit, what looks like a sudden large fire can go out just as fast.

The second would be the ceremonial gathering. A religious holiday like thanksgiving, christmas or holy week. You may see races or denominations coming together with a common liturgy. On a smaller scale, holidays are a time when estranged family members come together.

It is interesting to note that these two gatherings are at either end of the spectrum. One relies on liturgy, another on experience. A couple problems with this is that this is solely based on events. The other is that the practice of unity deals with relationships and neither temporary experiences nor liturgy can take it's place. Relationships require compromise, Compromise requires deconstruction in order to discern what can be thrown away for the sake of coming together. Reconstruction is always slow but it must follow. What does Reconstruction look like? Reconstruction happens in the presence of God during worship. I believe it is the marriage of ancient liturgy and pentecostal experience with the foundation of relationship. The key to relationship is service and self sacrifice. Letting go of pet peeves and pet doctrines etc.. It is the coming together to enjoy and share with each other. It is also the coming together to fulfill the biblical mandate of Matthew 25:34-36

Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

I've wondered how I can do my part in bringing about unity in Christ? How can I bring people together when I'm not a people person? Where do I even start? All I have so far is this: do small things and pray. I have faith that unity can and will happen, I hope it will happen in my lifetime but even if it doesn't I will still love everyone no matter what.

part of John 17 (the message)

Jesus' Prayer for His Followers

Jesus said these things. Then, raising his eyes in prayer, he said:
Father, it's time.
Display the bright splendor of your Son
So the Son in turn may show your bright splendor.
You put him in charge of everything human
So he might give real and eternal life to all in his charge.
And this is the real and eternal life:
That they know you,
The one and only true God,
And Jesus Christ, whom you sent.
I glorified you on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What you assigned me to do.
And now, Father, glorify me with your very own splendor,
The very splendor I had in your presence
Before there was a world.
I spelled out your character in detail
To the men and women you gave me.
They were yours in the first place;
Then you gave them to me,
And they have now done what you said.
They know now, beyond the shadow of a doubt,
That everything you gave me is firsthand from you,
For the message you gave me, I gave them;
And they took it, and were convinced
That I came from you.
They believed that you sent me.
I pray for them.
I'm not praying for the God-rejecting world
But for those you gave me,
For they are yours by right.
Everything mine is yours, and yours mine,
And my life is on display in them.
For I'm no longer going to be visible in the world;
They'll continue in the world
While I return to you.
Holy Father, guard them as they pursue this life
That you conferred as a gift through me,
So they can be one heart and mind
As we are one heart and mind.
As long as I was with them, I guarded them
In the pursuit of the life you gave through me;
I even posted a night watch.
And not one of them got away,
Except for the rebel bent on destruction
(the exception that proved the rule of Scripture).

Now I'm returning to you.
I'm saying these things in the world's hearing
So my people can experience
My joy completed in them.
I gave them your word;
The godless world hated them because of it,
Because they didn't join the world's ways,
Just as I didn't join the world's ways.
I'm not asking that you take them out of the world
But that you guard them from the Evil One.
They are no more defined by the world
Than I am defined by the world.
Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth;
Your word is consecrating truth.
In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world,
I give them a mission in the world.
I'm consecrating myself for their sakes
So they'll be truth-consecrated in their mission.

I'm praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they'll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they'll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you've sent me and loved them
In the same way you've loved me.

1 comment:

Beaver Meadow said...

These are excellent points, each one of them carefully thought through and from the heart. I share the same burden, for unity in the Body of Christ. As for the differences let me share this--- "All Spirit we blow up, All Word we dry up, With Both we grow up"--- or something to that effect. We as believers need it ALL.