Tag Archives: Christian unity

The undivided body of Christ

Our reconciler, Christ is the middle man.   Our sacrifice, his body brings us together.  Jesus shortens the distance between us and God.  He paves the way, makes the way, clearing up any confusion about the way that we should go.  His cross is our signpost.  His hands pinned to a cross say, “This way.  This way.”

Golgotha remains largely undeveloped. The faith doesn’t make martyrs like it used to.  Instead, Christianity produces businesspeople and great success.  Christ’s life is a transaction; we exchange his message for materials.  Capitalism divinized, the Scriptures become a kind of coinage and we cash in on it.  Just “name it and claim it.”  This message has turned some heads and turned others away.

Yes, we get turned around. The songwriter is right: “Our hearts our prone to wander.”  And we are conditioned to turn on each other.  Us against them, it is the American way.  Capitalism calls for contests, for fights to the death.  There can only be one winner.  Crabs in a barrel, we will claw each other’s eyes out for the distinction, the blue ribbon, the plastic trophy, the sash that is a good meal for moths.

We push each other and pull on our own flesh. It all seems to get in the way.  And we do this every day in a myriad of ways, this separation of self and soul, self and sibling.  All God’s children, we invent differences.  We draw lines in the sand and around our circle of influence, our cultural group.  But, our people are not God’s only people.  God’s circle of love is so much bigger.

We cannot get a hold of God’s finger. We cannot get a handle on God’s love.  God keeps reaching out and touching persons strange to us and those whose faces we are trying to forget.  God’s will is undivided.  Mind made up, God’s attention is not divided.

Father, Son and Spirit, God is community and the divine norm is unity. There is no separation in God, no getting between Father and Son or Son and Spirit.  They work together, and this arrangement has worked forever.  Christ’s body, the expectation will not change.  Come together.

Eyes, ears, nose, mouth and feet, all are needed. We cannot be a body without each other.  This is message of the Apostle Paul to the people in Rome: “For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are who are many, are one body in Christ, ad individually we are members one of another (12.4-5, NRSV);

to the church at Corinth: “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many are, one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit” (12.12-13, NRSV);

to the Galatians: “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (3.27-28, NRSV);

and to the Colossians, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator. In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” (3.9-11, NRSV)

Time and again, this is Paul’s message and as baptized believers, it is our new reality and aim. We must reduce our allegiances, cut the ties that bind us to old identities.  We must get smaller, to decrease that Christ might increase (John 3.30).  We must be singular in our focus, setting our eyes on the prize and become the answer Christ’s prayer: “Make them one as we are one” (John 17.22).

We need to get down to one, one body, his body. Because we share one Lord, one faith and one baptism (Ephesians 4.5).  As Christ is, so we must be. Undivided.

The Perfect Church?

See the source imageNobody’s perfect.  No church, no body of believers is perfect.  “How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” but also, how hard (Psalm 133.1).  The church has never been picture perfect; there has always been a problem getting all believers in the same room for a single shot or on the same page, reflecting the unifying image of Christ.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote in Life Together, “It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.”

We have fought each other from the beginning, over people, places and even the very presence of God.  A thousand years ago, there was The Great Schism and the Church became the faith of the East and the West.  The argument was over the Holy Spirit’s origin, whether from God the Father or God the Son.  Today, the church fights rage on.  Still, John Calvin reminds us, “Where ever the Word of God is purely preached and heard, there a church of God exists, even if it swarms with many faults.”  Because the Church is susceptible to change but the Word of God is not.

Truth be told, the Church is always going through changes.  Christ built it upon a rock, upon God’s revelation because he knew that she would not stand the test of time, the trials of maturity, the temptations of empire.  Richard Halverson puts it succinctly:

“In the beginning, the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ.  Then the church moved to Greece where it became a philosophy.  Then it moved to Rome where it became an institution.  Next, it moved to Europe where it became a culture.  And finally, it moved to America where it became an enterprise.”

All the while, the Church has been in search of itself, looking in the mirror of the mainstream only to reflect the culture and its cues.

But, who can find a perfect church, without flaws and faults, without factions and fractions, cracks and clicks?  She is far more precious than the power we love and the positions we hold dear.  Still, persons leave their churches each year in search of it.  Church hopping and church shopping, they survey their neighborhood for a goldilocks church– one just right for them.  Let me save you a trip; the perfect church does not exist.

Neither Paul nor John, the Revelator addressed a letter to such a group.

The church at Pentecost reminds us that God uses our differences for a unified sound, that the language of inclusion is not gibberish.  Tower of Babel meets multicultural church, there is no longer stranger, alien or immigrant.  All siblings, all sinners and all saints, this is the church but’s its not perfect.