This is a concept that fascinates me, and I’ve been studying it for years, hoping to stumble upon a verse that allows me to dig in my heels and insist on my way with regards to the numerous non-salvation issues that I feel very strongly about. And while I have volumes of thought about unity within the church, I’m most curious about what God would have us know right now.
The teaching directed to the early church about salvation in the name of Jesus was always underscored with a call to unity. It turns out, God’s fuller plan of redemption included anyone who would believe in Him.
It’s important to clarify that we are not united under the cause of unity. Our goal is not unity; we are united in our goal of Christ. In Ephesians, we can see that oneness with others in Christ is a calling, an inevitability, an indication, and a blessing of being one in Christ. Imagine the encouragement the people in the early church felt just by being together during the treacherous times. But, we must acknowledge that compromising the truths of the gospel for the sake of more unity does not glorify God.
Jesus makes it clear what unity is in his prayer for his disciples:
John 17:17 Jesus asks the Father to “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is the truth.”
Jesus’s disciples are set apart in Christ Jesus. A people set apart by the truth of God, glorifies God. And a people united with their brothers and sisters in Christ, glorifies God. This was a major paradigm shift for two radically different people groups—Jews and Gentiles—who were coming to grips with the “all-ness”- factor, as in ANY who will believe shall be saved.
The body of Christ so much more purposeful than we can even imagine. The fact that we here today, along with others scattered around the globe, have been caused to long for something other than ourselves, and have come to believe in the hope of Jesus, and have decided to place ourselves under Christ’s authority and say “Thy will be done”, and by doing so, we magnify the name God, alongside people from vastly diverse backgrounds and perspectives: this glorifies the diverse, intricate, complex, unfathomable mind of God.
Can you imagine the strength of the chorus if we elevated the goal of resurrected life in Christ above all other matters? For however fiercely we defend and represent our positions on other things, how on fire might we be if we even more passionately sought the truths, and the study and the practice of the crucified and resurrected life in Christ?
Incidentally, it’s always good to remember that God loves the world—it sort of flavors our posture toward the world from our state of unity with those in Christ. Can you imagine if one of those rays of light was modeling for the world how to collaborate with diverse people and glean from those who see things differently than us?
We believe in a Triune God—Father, Son, Spirit—who is Himself, a diverse and perfectly collaborative union. It can be tempting to impose a yoke of uniformity to forge a unity; but ultimately, uniformity is not the highest witness to the manifold wisdom, and nature of the Triune God.
In fact it is specifically our collective “manifold”-ness in the church which offers an abundance of opportunity to practice adding to our faith: goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and love. These are the greater fruits—fruits in keeping with repentance—which can grow when committed members come from vastly different corners of the earth, and yet are called to love. This is what it looks like to work in correspondence with his manifold wisdom.
The body of Christ has endured a lot of damage—the worst of it coming from within. But if we humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face and repent, God will hear us and forgive us, and he will heal us.