As I wrap up, at least for now, some thoughts on “oneness” and “unity,” I find that such is anchored in two things: 1) paradigm, and 2) personal intent. Having a theological paradigm which lends itself toward a healthy view of God and subsequent love of others is critical. But without an honest personal desire to conform to the image of Jesus Christ on an individual level, no effort of unity will ever gain traction.
Concerning the theological paradigm, much has already been said. When a Jesus follower truly appreciates that no one has “the list,” it’s a great first step. (It’s not sufficient to just say, “We all have the Bible,” because honest people interpret parts of the Bible differently.) Then digesting and implementing the principle in 2 Chronicles 30 concerning God’s nature is a necessary second. (God’s primary interest is in the faith and intent of a person’s heart as opposed to superior understanding or performance.) Moving from there, another huge point comes when we realize that our typical interpretation and application of 2nd John 9 makes unity not just challenging, but essentially impossible on any big scale. (Again, unity can’t be about uniformity, because no one has “the list.”) And finally, tweaking our paradigm to where situations of compassion and brokenness are viewed as opportunities for Christ’s love to shine as opposed to complex dilemmas to be dreaded is important as well.
Many times, I believe, a true spirit of unity is inhibited in believers, not because of a stubbornness or an unwillingness to be cooperative, but by their genuine belief that if they embrace someone who differs with them (whether it be in matters of doctrine or performance) they are compromising their faith in Jesus. If that’s an area of your struggle, I feel your pain. But, I hasten to say, what we each must come to realize is the “getting everyone to believe your list” approach to unity is broken, flawed and divisive. It’s impractical and just doesn’t work.
What IS important, in the pursuit of unity, is each of us have a personal commitment to conform his/her spirit to the image of Jesus Christ. Jesus said we are to “love our neighbor as ourselves.” Paul spoke of the “bond of love.” Let’s face it: Christianity is an “one another” religion. It’s about people. It’s about our loving people, regardless of how much biological, theological or political “sameness” we share or don’t share with them. It’s about encouraging one another. It’s about our being a community of people who truly love Jesus, one another and those around us.
If you and I want to be a part of the solution, as opposed to part of the problem, on the long-standing challenge of unity, we must have hearts full of love. Choose not to just tolerate people, but to engage them. Choose to try to understand them. Pray that you can feel for and with them. Paul said, “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1 Co. 13:4-8a) Not surprisingly, Scriptures says, “love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Pt. 4:8) It not only covers sins, but it also binds people together.
No joke, some of the most unhappy and disconcerted people I know are those who harbor resentment, hold grudges, burn bridges and choose, for whatever reason, not to lovingly forgive. As one of my relatives said concerning her own daughter who has hurt her deeply over and over and over, “I would just hate to be her.” How true, yet how sad. But thankfully, with God’s help and the strengthening of the Spirit, we can rise well above that!
You are loved!