Monday, February 1, 2016

Unity Over Conformity

You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.
But that doesn’t mean you should all look and speak and act the same. Out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own gift. Ephesians 4:4-7 (MSG)

I have two brothers, one 4½ years older and one 5 years younger. They look like our father and I look like our mother. The three of us as children were so completely different—our parents were the only thing we has in common. My older brother was studious, logical and intelligent. My younger brother was athletic, charismatic, and full of energy. I was the shy, emotional, creative one. I used to tell people that if you put us together, you’d have one very well-rounded person. Despite our differences, we were (and are) family.

That’s the picture of unity that God gave me this past week—three distinct individuals whose only commonality is the same father and mother.  Too often in the world and in the church today, we make the mistake of confusing the idea of conformity with that of unity. But God never intended conformity—which cannot exist within diversity—for us. If he had, he wouldn’t have created us with free will to choose as we like. He wouldn’t have made us singularly unique. Unity is not everyone thinking, acting, believing the same but the coming together of diverse individuals bound together by a single core aspect. Our shared commonality is our Creator and Lord. Everywhere I look, I see conformity—cliques—being mistaken for unity. There can be no unity without diversity.

Unity is a strange mix of strength and fragility. Strength in numbers and a pool of ability from which the Lord works miracles within and among us. Fragile in that a single moment of human discord can shatter it. Jesus understood this and prayed for you and me that our unity would be stronger in the Triune God than our sinful pride would be to tear it apart.

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.
John 17:20-23 (MSG)

And he is at the Father’s right hand this moment still interceding on our behalf to achieve the kind of unity he desires for us. He sent his Holy Spirit to be in and among us to achieve the unity he had in mind for us from the beginning.

I don’t know how he is going to accomplish this. But I do know that I am a part of the problem and the solution. It’s my narrow view, my pride, and my selfishness that contributes to the hindering or breaking of the unity we are privileged to have in the Lord Jesus Christ. In every act of acceptance of others just as they are, in every act of love to those I know and those I don’t, and in every act of understanding, whether or not I agree, that he strengthens the unity among us within him.

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