Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Values of the Church 2: Unity

The last post in this series introduced to our discussion the notion of values. We all have values, and we use those values when making decisions. Some value money and possessions, then decide to work hard to obtain same. Some value family, others value solitude. You can tell the values of someone by the decisions he or she makes. Regardless of what one says, what one values is what guides most decision making.

So in looking at the church, we've looked at what the church is, and what the church is to do. Now we're looking at the values which inform the remainder of our conversation about the "how" questions of the church. The first value is love: we need to do all things with love for our brothers and sisters in the family of God. Today we are moving on to unity.

Unity is, according to the dictionary (dot com version) "the state of being one; oneness". Scripturally speaking, unity is being "of one mind" regarding our mission. Unity was so important to Jesus that it was on His prayer list even when He was mere hours from crucifixion. He taught that "a house divided will not stand." A lack of unity is nearly as damaging to the church as a lack of love. Unity is a very high value, and when we discard it we always (not sometimes, not occassionally - always) harm the church.

In the essence of clarity, sometimes we better understand what something is by contrasting it to what something is not. There are two things which unity is not, although these are often confused with unity.

The first thing unity is not is unanimity. We do not ever have to agree on all aspects of life, or even faith, to be part of the church. People will have different views on some of the methods and forms used within a church to spread the Gospel. We all bring different experiences, wisdom, knowledge and talent to the table, and this is a good thing. For many, if the church is not unanimous in a given pursuit, that is proof that the Spirit is not in the work, and therefore it should not be pursued. This is a false ideal, and a very real danger as an idol. There are myriad reasons why not everyone may fully agree with a given decision, many of which are valid. Holding up the movement of the church in the name of "seeking unanimity" is something against which we should stand firm guard.

The second thing unity isn't is uniformity. God is a creative God who made us individuals for a reason. When we demand other Christians worship the same way, singing the same songs, praying the same prayers, reading the same books by the same Christian gurus...this is a denial of what God created us to be. We have different gifts, personalities and circumstances. God gave them to us for the use of the church, not to be stifled by the church. To see what happens when we raise uniformity to a value, look no further than the example of the Pharisees who sought to judge Jesus because he did not follow their rules.

In unity we need to be all behind the mission of the church. We all need to know and understand why God has instituted the church on earth, and we all need to be passionate about doing the things Jesus commanded His church to do (i.e., love God, love people and make disciples.) But we all, being unified in our direction and passion, are made unique individuals who are gifted to best take part in different ways. As long as the main things of mission and purpose are the main things, a lack of uniformity and unanimity in the small things is actually a way to celebrate God's created diversity.

The next post, probably as long as this one, will continue the discussion on unity, touching on why disunity is such a problem. After that we'll touch briefly on the hills to die on, or where disunity can be permissible. (Foreshadowing - disunity can be okay in a few circumstances, and with a distinct purpose of restoration to unity.)

Until then -

God bless!



Tidbits of Torah said...

You have been misled by your church to believe what you just typed "To see what happens when we raise uniformity to a value, look no further than the example of the Pharisees who sought to judge Jesus because he did not follow their rules."

Jews were and are commanded to keep the 613 commandments of G-d. Within these commandments G-d has commanded us to follow our Sages - not to turn to the left or to right but to follow their directives.

The Pharisees were correct in informing jesus that he was straying from Torah commandments.

Do stop by my site and visit the links on the left for the negative and positive commandments.

Psalm 119:155
Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek out your decrees.

R. Stewart said...

I do thank you for your concern; it is unloving to see someone you believe to be in doctrinal error and not point it out (and you do so eloquently and politely.) But I do disagree with your premise. My view of Jesus' teachings on the Pharisees is, while informed by the teachings of other Christians, based on my own reading of scripture. Scripture is clear on the point.

I can't believe a sage or prophet above the word of God. When our sages, rabbis, ministers, teachers or priests are elevated above God's word (which is really what we must follow without straying to the left or to the right) we elevate them into idols. Our teachers are imperfect as they are human. Their rules are also imperfect to the extent they do not align with scripture. Jesus was right to compare the teachings of the Pharisees to revealed scripture and point out where the Pharisees missed the point.

The Pharisees of the NT missed the truth of the Messiah because they elevated their rules above the scripture revealed. They looked to the externals, as if people could save themselves, while God looks to the heart.

I would ask you to consider the evidences pointing to Jesus as Messiah on their own merits, and not take unexamined the word of anyone - even the wisest of human sages.

God bless,