Posts Tagged ‘unity’

A Leader To Bring Us Together

January 19, 2017

Those people! Those (other) people.

They ignore all the rules. They bring their guitars and drums into church. Wear whatever clothes they wish. They shout and dance. They don’t believe all of our strict interpretations of Scripture. They don’t even look like us. They don’t always speak the same language.

Those people!

They are so strict and humorless. They think they follow all the rules and sit there pointing out where everyone else falls short of following some rule. They think everyone should believe everything just like them, dress like them, talk like them. If not, then they don’t belong.

Sorry, I’m not talking about the politics of Washington, D.C. Or France. Or Britain. Or Germany. Or whatever. The state of politics globally is pretty divisive right now.

But what about churches?

I’m not Catholic, but I love to see the direction that Pope Francis is trying to lead.

On the other hand, there is the politics of all the local places of Christian worship. So much divisiveness.

Where is the injunction of Jesus–“you will know my followers by their love”?

In those early years of the church, leaders struggled with bringing together two completely different groups of people into one faith. The “racial” divide at the time was between Jews and everyone else in the world who was not a Jew.

Keeping that in mind, go back and read Romans straight through. Read it from the point of view of what Paul is saying about that divide.

“Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised (Jews) on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised (everyone else) through that same faith.”

Paul’s plea throughout the letter is that the two sides come together. I often fall short of being that kind of reconciler. We need more of us to speak up to bring people together instead of bowing down to those who seek to divide.

I Have A Dream

January 16, 2017

Is there an American who does not know what follows that phrase, “I have a dream”?

I hope not.

I remember taking a lot of grief from pretty much everyone in my home town back in the day for agreeing with that dream.

But I still have the dream–that every person will be judged by the strength of their character and not the color of their skin–or any of the other ways we have of dividing people into groups “like us” and “not like us”.

Jesus did not have difficulties crossing the very strict racial boundaries of his day (Jew v non-Jew).

I’m leading a small group studying from Romans right now. Paul is devoting much time to bridging the divide between the significant racial divide of his day–Jew v non-Jew.

It was painful to me in the last presidential election to watch one marketing message very clearly playing on the racial fears or prejudices of a group of Americans while the other candidate failed to come out strongly as one who would bridge the gap.

The same attitudes are springing up world-wide. Look at the unrest in Europe right now.

Where is the next Martin Luther King, Jr. who can raise a powerful voice in a non-violent way to unify people instead of dividing them?

Be Filled With the Fullness of God

August 2, 2016

I will be looking at Ephesians for a few weeks with a small group. We used to pride ourselves on how long we took going through a book. Now, they seem to rush through. The leader covered two chapters of rather dense thinking Sunday. I had to hold things up.

Yesterday I talked about unity in Chapter 2. Let’s look at Paul’s prayer for the people in Chapter 3 (14-20).

It’s a short prayer.

He says he bows his knees before the Father.

When I began to practice meditation a long time ago, we all thought you had to sit cross-legged with your hands on your knees and one finger and thumb brought together in a circle to complete the energy loop.

Nonsense. Lying flat on your back is an excellent posture. Sitting–any kind of sitting other than slouching in a soft chair or sofa–is an excellent posture. You can do cross-legged on a prayer cushion, a favorite chair, a park bench. Standing and walking are also excellent postures. Some people raise their hands. I feel ostentatious doing that. But that’s just me. I don’t like big displays.

…so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul introduces himself and his topic and then takes time out to pray. His prayer contains three petitions:

  • “that you may be strengthened in your inner being”
  • “that Christ may dwell in your hearts”
  • “so that you may be filled with the fullness of God”

Can you take a hint?

Envision what sort of person Paul wishes for us to be.

When Paul said “hearts”, that is the English translation into a term used by modern English-speaking people. Ancient peoples believed the seat of deep emotion came from deep within our gut.

Paul had just pleaded for unity in the church. Breaking down barriers between people. Then he prays (and repeats three times) that we have God filling us with power–I’m betting he’s thinking (using one of his favorite phrases) so that we can achieve that unity, break down those walls.

Live In Unity

July 28, 2015

How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! Psalm 133

Of course, that was originally written for physical descendants of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob.

However, many of us look at our congregations of believers and sigh that same refrain. If only…

Dallas Willard writes in The Spirit of the Disciplines, “Personalities united can contain mor of God and sustain the force of his greater persence much better than scattered individuals.”

I’ve been devoting several hours of service working with other members of my congregations, and I have to leave in 10 minutes for another four hours this morning.

Just reflecting for a few minutes that serving together on a common project is so much better than just sitting around and criticizing one another, or making up untruths about others, or gossiping about others.

How pleasant indeed it is when we can get together and serve in unity.

Healing Divisions in the Church

January 21, 2015

Paul was concerned deeply about unity in his little chain of ekklesia gatherings. I think many of his “rules” were written with the deep knowledge of human interactions that would cause divisions, drifting, jealousy, and the like.

I’m finishing N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God where he expounds at length on the subject of unity.

Recently I was with a small group of people who had perpetuated and instigated divisiveness in their organization.

I open up scripture and read from the first two chapters of 1 Corinthians.

If you are not familiar with that section, I urge you to read it for yourself. This is one place where Paul really expresses his human disappointment at people who spread divisiveness.

I meet with a group of men on Tuesday mornings. With around 14 of us, we may have 15 different theologies (OK, that’s a joke, probably only 3 or 4). We do all agree on certain fundamentals–especially the resurrection of Jesus. That is the core gospel. And with it, the coming of the spirit to feed us and guide us. And we can work through some diversity of opinion without losing our heads and dividing the group in hatred and bad feelings.

That’s the core of Paul’s message. We are all to come together in great diversity (for Paul to go to the lengths to describe it as much as he does, you just have to know it was revolutionary). Male and female; Jew and Gentile; free and slave. All are one in Jesus the Messiah.

He had so much trouble in his small groups, I wonder what he would think today about trying to achieve unity among millions of Christ followers.

He’d probably just get on his jet and try to visit everyone and preach the gospel. And write more letters. I imagine that he would be strongly emotional in the letters today. What do you think?

Note: I wrote on this topic a few days ago. Obviously dear to my heart right now is the achievement of unity through diversity.