“Oneness” and “unity” are such wonderful words. And in some contexts, especially, they can be quite emotive — unity among friends, unity on a sports team, unity in a marriage, unity within a family and certainly unity among God’s people. For a body of believers, that places such an overarching emphasis upon unity, you would think that we in the Churches of Christ would have it down. Unfortunately, the truth is we are ridiculously divided. It’s unfortunate, surprising, yet true.
From the standpoint of Scripture, however, “oneness” and “unity” are quite important and actually merit such an emphasis. Our Lord specifically prayed for such: “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (Jn. 17:20-21) Thus, our challenge is not the strong emphasis on our need to be united and like-minded; it’s our glaring inability to pull it off. While I won’t go into detail concerning such, those familiar with our heritage know such to be the case. I realize that there are some that feel as I once did, that we’re doing just fine, viewing themselves as the “remnant” as opposed to part of the problem. But as we say in south Texas, “That just ain’t so.”
In both Romans and Ephesians the apostle Paul emphasized the oneness of God’s people. In Romans 12 verses 4-5 he spoke of our being “one body,” yet having “many members.” He went on to comment on how each member has unique gifts, but are still part of that one body. Then in Ephesians 4:4-5 he noted how there is one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father. Clearly, the standard for which we are to strive is one (excuse the pun) of oneness. While those texts speak of the need for such, both passages unveil a key to our acquiring it. In Romans, Paul said that the believer is “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (12:3) There is to be humility and a healthy self-image. Then in Ephesians he wrote, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” we are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:3) At the fulcrum of such an effort there is to be love.
While we have the Scriptures along with God, through the agency of the Spirit, to help us, I believe that a big piece to unity resides in you — it has to do with us — and our understanding of what it looks like and the attitude we are to have. In the weeks to come I plan to share with you some of the “mile markers” in my journey: a transition from mere rule-keeping to relationship, from laws to love, from works centered faith to a grace oriented faith, from dwelling on the differences to embracing diversity, from never being “good enough” to being thankful for the work of Jesus. More to come.
You are loved!