God is one. One and only. United and unique. Holy Scripture and the testimony of creation sings with King David, “You are great, O Lord God. For there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears.”
Out of God’s uniqueness and unity flows a united and uniting body of work. From the gift of marriage (“the two will become one”), to the advent of Messiah (“the way, the truth and the life”), the way of redemption (“nor is there salvation in any other”), and the creation of one body and one church through the work of the cross (“one new man”).
Unity of God’s people
In fact, the unity of God’s people is intrinsically tied to the unity of God. Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane, hours before His torture and death, was that “all those who will believe in Me…may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us.”
And why? Why is the unity of all believers so important? Jesus’ answer is in the next line. So “that the world may believe that You sent Me.” The unity of God’s children flows from the unity of the trinity and is one way that others might believe that Jesus is the Sent One of God.
We who have believed, have been so willing, sometimes almost excited, to separate from other Christians over issues which, however important, are usually less than the importance You placed on unity. We have been very careful and zealous to divide and maintain disunity, even in the areas where we are agreed, for the sake of small areas where we have disagreed.
We have decried every desire for unity as a conspiracy of the ecumenical movement (the very word is anathema) as though every attempt to come together with those who love You implies a liberal agenda and the sacrifice of truth. In so doing, we have confused the gospel and have failed to represent You to the world.
“Can two walk together unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3) – is frequently the protest.
Nuff said? End of discussion? You go to your corner, we’ll go to ours?
There is another way
What if there is a more nuanced approach to this question? Let’s agree that two individuals who disagree completely cannot walk together. Right? Okay, good.
But is it then possible for two individuals who agree in part to also walk, in part, together? Can we not walk together where we are agreed, walk in grace where we are not, and wish one another well when finally we turn for our final destination?
What if two guys in Toronto were planning to walk – one to Ottawa and the other to Montreal? Should they keep themselves separate (pure, undefiled, unspotted) from the influence of the other and his “erroneous destination-choices” right from the start?
Or could they walk together as far as Prescott (Google it 🙂 ) where the highways turns off towards Ottawa? Help each other along the way? Enjoy spirited and refining discussions about their different destinations? Particularly, if their ultimate home will be the same – say, heaven, together, forever.
Truth and unity
Now please understand, I am not talking about unity at the expense of truth. Both are important to God and they should be important to every true Christian. What I am speaking out against is our casual sacrifice of unity for the sake of truth, the ease and eagerness with which we cast off blood-bought Christians and hold them at arms length when they disagree with us on lesser things.
Truth and unity are not mutually exclusive. The truth is, unity is very important to God, and striving for it can help those on both sides of any debate move closer to the truth.
Walking together as much as we are able
I want to walk with Christians, true Christians, as far as we are able, and perhaps even a bit further with mutual grace. I want to share the gospel together at Summer Camps. I want to meet together to pray about the needs of our community.
I want to have spirited and mutually challenging conversations that spur us on towards the truth. I want to read their writings and receive their criticism on mine.
Not our enemy
And if they believe in a different form of church governance, or they draw a different line in their complementarianism or if they prefer songs from a different century than I do, then perhaps we will meet in a different place on Sunday.
Perhaps we will belong to a different denomination. But they are not the enemy. They are not the other team.
Strive for unity
Let’s be careful to have God’s heart for unity. Let’s strive for unity (it’s preservation and it’s restoration, where possible). Let us not be quick to cast off, vilify or brand as “other” what God has created “One.”
Let’s walk to Prescott together, and then…fare thee well.