Opportunities as We Exit Social Isolation Part 5
Opportunity for Unity
This is the fifth and final installment in a series of articles focused on opportunities that Christians have as society continues to emerge from social isolation. When I first started this series, the thought of social interaction seemed like a distant dream. Not anymore. Driving home from work the other day, it dawned on me: I was in traffic. People were out, and the emergence was in full swing. The fog of social isolation has begun to lift, accelerated by the fresh smoke of recent rioting around the nation. Unfortunately, the fog surrounding the pandemic has yet to clear. Opinions, fears, and misconceptions still abound. When I first planned this article series, I never would have imagined how pertinent each topic would have been to the events of that week. The focus of today’s article lands on unity. Unity—that is something our country could use a little bit more of at the moment. I was expecting that I would have to remind us Christians about unity in the face of some wanting to wear masks while others did not. Now, it seems that this reminder of unity is necessary as racial tensions rise, political opinions maintain significant differences, and the interpretation of the pandemic continues to vary.
Our polarized nation’s approach to disagreement has infiltrated the church. We find ourselves increasingly conformed to the world in how we handle controversy—both in the sphere of political opinion and in secondary Christian interpretation. This is unfortunate.
Christians have a unique opportunity during this very moment to show this world what unity looks like in the midst of such polarity. Unity within diversity is at the very core of what Christ accomplished through his atoning work (cf. Gal 3:28). When Paul encourages the believers at Ephesus to unity, he says in Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Much of what he declares here is worthy of our consideration, but notice his encouragement: to maintain the unity of the Spirit. Maintain, not create. Christ created this unity (see Eph 2-3); our call is to maintain it. He created it through his death to sin; we maintain it through our death to ourselves.
Just how important is maintaining unity within the body of Christ? Consider some of Jesus’ final words to his disciples on the eve of his death. After washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus proclaimed in John 13:34-35, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” After showing them how to love, he calls them to this love. Through their love for one another, they will corroborate their love for Jesus to the onlooking world.
A little later, Jesus connects the unity of his disciples to the testimony of Jesus’ mission. He said in John 17:22-23, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Did you catch the connection between John 13 and 17? The disciples’ love for one another reveals their commitment; their unity reveals the identity of the one they follow. Love reveals identity (people as followers of Christ), which leads to unity and then to identity (Jesus as Son of God).
Unity in the church is no small matter. We reveal our commitment to Christ with it, and we testify to the truth of the Gospel through it.