"laestadian, apostolic, gay, lgbtq, ex-oalc, ex-llc, llc, oalc, bunner" LEARNING TO LIVE FREE: Christian Unity

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Christian Unity

I'm posting the following work (which I found online) because it speaks to the need for Christian unity.

Ephesians 4:1-7,11-16 speaks to us and all Christians about such matters having to do with our diversity and the problems we have around our differences . . . the letter, written in Paul’s name, was calling Christians back to the basis of their faith. It sought to build up the whole church. And, much as it is today, there was considerable diversity among these early Christians, and that diversity could divide them. The letter places a strong emphasis on their unity and exhorts them to be true to their calling as Christians.

The letter points out that marks of that calling include humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another in love, and maintaining the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. Only then are people able to live and work together, doing the work of God. Ephesians emphasizes this unity by the repeated use of the word "one" - one body, one Spirit, one hope one faith, one baptism, one God above all, through all, in all.

And each Christian and each church had gifts to bring to this work. All of these gifts are to help all Christians grow in the knowledge of Christ toward a maturity in Christ - spoken of here as growing up into the full stature of Christ.

And the central message is that the heart of it all is love. Christians are to speak the truth in love, and build up the body in love. The Christian calling is a calling into community, the well-being of the whole. Each person and each church has a particular contribution to make for the welfare of the whole. So, what we have here is both an emphasis on the individual and the individual faith community, but in relationship to the larger community of faith - the body of Christ.

The implication here is that theological systems that promote particularities or human distinctions and practices which tend to divide the community of faith are contrary to the essence of God’s will and the essential Christian teaching.

Christian unity does not mean there are no differences or distinctions among members or faith communities. The issue is whether these differences or distinctions are good gifts that work together to build up and serve the whole body of Christ.

As Christians and churches we all are called to a life of love, and this epistle reminds us that the essential ingredient of our unity-in-diversity is love. Love is at the heart of God’s truth revealed in Jesus Christ.

So, it’s important to recognize our diverse gifts, not only among ourselves here, but also throughout the Christian community. There are different gifts and ways of serving, but the same God is served. And we need to relate to one another in ways that promote our growth together and our maturity as Christians. Being open to recognizing and learning from our differences enlarges us and contributes to our maturity. The call to unity is a call to humility, gentleness, and patience with one another, speaking the truth as we have known and experienced it, yes, but speaking it in love and bearing with one another in love.

This is not always easy, because we are a diverse people with differences in background and culture, differences in our experiences and stories, and in the images and rituals that we find meaningful. But, we’re talking here about unity, not uniformity. We’re talking about using our many and varied gifts to work together for the common good. There is so much that needs our attention: e.g., a worldwide AIDS epidemic that has been responded to largely with indifference, inaction, or missed opportunities; the percentage of people in our own country without health insurance in this the best economy there’s ever been; the fact that 1 in 3 black men from the age of 18 to 35 are either in prison or on parole.

The church needs to be at the forefront of feeding, healing, caring for and loving God’s people - the body of Christ making a difference in the world. We need to share our abundance. The lesson of Jesus is that God has provided enough for all, and as his disciples we are called to see that it reaches everybody. We are called to a larger and higher purpose beyond our differences, so that people are not dismissed, left behind or left out . . .


  1. The article seems to take a low view of diversity in religious practices and worship styles, fearing that these differences will foster divisions and destroy unity. While this certainly is the case in far too many instances, why not look at the positives diversity brings?

    To use worship as an example, I've worshipped in many different Christian communities over the years. From the charismatic "praise and worship" service to Anglican choral evensong to sharing the Lord's Supper with Laestadians, at their best all these different practices generated in me a sense of awe, a feeling of Divine Presence, and wonder.

    As Christians of many different beliefs, practices, denominations, and traditions, the fact is that we are united in the mystical Body of Christ. Unity isn't some far off goal. It already exists. It's already done.

    The hard part, of course, is REMEMBERING that simple fact the next time someone's differing and strongly held belief rubs me the wrong way. :)

  2. Thanks for posting, Tomte. I like your ecumenism -- even though I didn't have the same reaction to that article. The author says "being open to recognizing and learning from our differences enlarges us and contributes to our maturity." I would add that we should find value in diversity, but see it as our duty to fight ignorance, obfuscation, abuse, discrimination or bigotry in the church. How? Words are cheap. There is so much "God talk" in the halls of power lately and not much God walk. The church must be re-called continually to its mission as advocates "for the least of these."