Maintaining Unity in Christ
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. – Romans 12:4-5
The Bible calls us to protect the unity of the Church, but what exactly is Christian unity?
Let’s start with what unity is not. Unity is not the same as conformity. Conformity implies that our unity is based on some outside pressure or our own effort, but the bible says that it is the Holy Spirit who creates our unity. We don’t create it. It’s a gift. So, unity is not conformity. Neither is unity the same as uniformity. Uniformity happens when we all look or act the same. That’s not unity either. Real Christian unity is much deeper and richer and stronger than that.
When the Bible talks about unity it is referring to something living, dynamic. When St. Paul wanted to talk about the unity of the Church he used the image of the human body. We are one body, Paul says, with many parts. Those parts don’t all have the same function, nor do they look alike. The human body lacks uniformity. In fact, it thrives on diversity! And so does the body of Christ. It’s the diversity of our God-given gifts that makes us strong.
Christian unity is a living thing, and it thrives on diversity. But that’s not all. The real key to our unity is that it is grounded in Jesus. There’s unity in the body of Christ because we all belong to Jesus through our baptism. We are one in Christ. And because we’re one in Christ, we share a common mission, a common purpose, a common sense of direction.
When one of our boys was little he joined a soccer team. Have you ever seen little kids play soccer? It’s this little blob of bodies, all dressed in the same shirts, gathered around the same soccer ball, and all their little legs are kicking. Mostly they just kick each other, but occasionally they kick the ball too, but the ball rarely goes far because it can’t get out of the blob of bodies. That’s not unity!
By the end of the soccer season, however, the coach had helped these aspiring soccer players to work as a team. They learned that they had different positions to play, different parts of the field to cover, different tasks to perform. But they all had a single purpose, a single mission â€“ to get the ball into the net. And not just any net, mind you! We learned the hard way that we needed to be clear about which net we were trying to get the ball into! But when all of that came together, unity happened. They became a team, and it was wonderful to watch.
It is also wonderful to watch the Body of Christ work when we choose to live out and protect the unity that we have in Christ. Without unity we cannot effectively accomplish God’s mission. Without unity, we feed the doubts of unbelievers about the reality and power of the Gospel.
Bringing It Home:
1. How can you help to affirm and celebrate the diversity of your local church?
2. How would you articulate the mission or purpose of the Body of Christ? Do you think the majority of your local church would affirm that common direction? I challenge you to poll some of the members to find out, and don’t just ask the people you know!
Heavenly Father, you paid a great price to form us into one body, the Body of Christ. We thank you for the incredible diversity in the Body and for the strength that our diversity brings. Keep us grounded in the truth of your word, and keep our eyes focused on our common mission. Together we can do so much more for your Kingdom than we ever could alone. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Burnsville, MN