the weblog of Alan Knox

Unity in Christ…

Posted by on Feb 1, 2007 in blog links, community, unity | 13 comments

The post “A fading unity” by Chris Milliken has caused me to think about unity again. He makes several statements that force me to think beyond contrived “unity” based on our shared affinities. Consider his opening paragraph:

As followers of Jesus, we are expected to experience a degree of unity that comes from sharing the Seed of Life that is inherently different than what can be experienced by anyone else… Jesus said the world would know that we are His disciples because of our love for each other. Not because we are all good friends who do alot of “one-anothering” just like people without God can do, but because there is something fundamentally other-worldly about the bond that unites us that is clearly something that humans can’t cook up on their own. It reveals a weighty God because a people evidence God with their unity like the moving leaves and tree branches reveal wind.

I have unity with other brothers and sisters in Christ because of our shared relationship with God. I have unity – I don’t create unity. We have unity in God, not because we share things in common. Even those without God have unity with others like them. But, our unity must be different and demonstrated. If I cannot demonstrate unity with a brother or sister who does not like me, who is not like me, or who disagrees with me, can I demonstrate unity at all? (Considering our earlier, but ongoing, disucssion, this statement also holds for love: if I cannot love someone – not limited to a brother or sister in Christ – who does not like me, who is not like me, or who disagrees with me, can I love at all?) Is our unity in God evident?

He continues:

Its really not that hard to experience some harmony from time to time that we mistake for unity. But it fades. Unity from God is solid and unchanging – because it is the very Kingdom itself that the scriptures call “unshakable”. It is a life-integrating unity that is undeniably the work of God’s spirit; a transcendant unity that is as tangible to our souls as bread is to our flesh, and which the scriptures are not silent on…

Yet, in our desperation to create community, to succeed in our efforts and carve out a “space” where we can find shared life and unity, the temptation is always before us to cultivate a sense of it through other things; shared interests in sports, shared hobbies, social service experiences, shared cultural backgrounds (high school experience, tv shows, movies, etc), shared meals, musical tastes, demographic-specific needs or any one of thousands of peripheral things that tempt us to ‘major’ our unity in while ‘minoring’ unity in Christ: where awaits the tangible power of endless life. We do lots of stuff and always try to mix in a little Jesus somewhere.

You know, there are times when I wish a good article would stop. There is so much to meditate on here. Have I ever demonstrated a unity that is “unshakable”? Of course, this immediately causes me to ask the question, “How?” which he anticipates:

Perhaps reading this, something in you agrees in part but find yourself wondering “How?” How do we enter into this unity in Christ? Isn’t it enough to assume that because we all admit to wanting more of Jesus and we sing and have a few conversations about it, that this is enough? Maybe sometimes it is. Please don’t misunderstand. I think the answer to this is a little like learning to farm. Its a lot more humbling work, commitment to unseen results and grueling patience than we would choose for ourselves, but the joy at harvest is unlike any version we’ve adopted in our shortcuts.

So what might this path look like? First of all, answering “what-does-it-look-like” questions is sometimes dangerous because giving the answer tempts people to start imitating the fruit without developing the root.

Gee, thanks. But, of course, he’s right. If I seek the fruit (unity), then I miss both the fruit and the root (the One who produces the fruit of unity). But, if I seek the One… I have much “humbling work” left before me – work that leads me to the One who produces unity.

There is more to the article, which I recommend reading in its entirety. However, for now, I have enough to ponder. I need to seek the One who produces unity in the first place. Then, and only then, I may demonstrate unity – even with brothers and sisters who do not like me, who are not like me, or who disagree with me, but are connected to the same One nonetheless.


13 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 2-1-2007

    Alan -

    I wasn’t home yesterday so I am having to catch up now … you certainly have had a day full of good posts! This one is particularly challenging, encouraging and edifying. Thank you for posting it. I am humbled that too often I seek the fuit rather than the root.

    Blessings!

  2. 2-1-2007

    Heather,

    I see that you seem to be playing “catch up”. I truly appreciate your taking the time to read my posts. The original article was very challenging to me as well.

    -Alan

  3. 2-1-2007

    Great find! I linked to this on my blog as well. Thanks!

    David

  4. 2-1-2007

    David,

    Thank you for the link. The original article is long but very thought-provoking. I hope our links cause many people to think deeply about our unity in God.

    -Alan

  5. 2-1-2007

    Alan,
    Great insights. “We don’t make unity – we have unity.” Good words in a day when people seem to be making a lot of noise about “being unified.” We have thins incredible, unique, beautiful unity in Christ Jesus. It seems to me that we have to make a deliberate decision to ignore it…
    Geoff

  6. 2-1-2007

    Sorry, “this,” not “thins.” :)

  7. 2-1-2007

    Geoff,

    Thanks for the comment, and the clarification. For some of us, the unity is not as “thin” as it once was. :)

    -Alan

  8. 2-2-2007

    First of all, answering “what-does-it-look-like” questions is sometimes dangerous because giving the answer tempts people to start imitating the fruit without developing the root.
    Wow! That is heavy!!! I am finding lately that where I once saw unity as a function of doctrinal agreement, I am supposed to view unity as the by-product of receiving and giving the Father’s love. Jesus’ love is not the result of simple commonalities, but rather His love shows up as the direct result of a choice to give of ourselves in spite of a lack of having anything in common save being in Christ. Thanks Alan!

  9. 2-2-2007

    Raborn,

    You said: “His love shows up as the direct result of a choice to give of ourselves in spite of a lack of having anything in common save being in Christ.”

    I have been trying to come up with a way to say that for several days now. Thank you! I will probably quote this in a post soon.

    -Alan

  10. 2-2-2007

    This is what I was trying to get at a few months ago. This author (and you too Alan) put it so well into words. It is so easy to relate to people with common interests. However, I also find that I try to hide my deepest thoughts and struggles from fear that I may be looked down upon, thus creating a false sense of unity — which further hinders my pursuit of godliness.

  11. 2-2-2007

    Renata,

    I had not thought of unity in those terms. I usually think of unity in terms of how I view the other person. But, you are correct. We sometimes try to create unity by being someone that we’re not. At least, I think that’s what you’re saying. Instead, we should be united as we are… as we really are. This will take alot of humility and vulnerability.

    -Alan

  12. 2-2-2007

    Pretending to be someone that we’re not …. that definitely leads to a false sense of unity. And that’s another can of worms in and of itself – pretending. If we truly loved God and loved people the way we are supposed to then no one would have to pretend. Thanks for posting that … it’s something else to chew on!

    ~Heather

  13. 2-2-2007

    Heather,

    I agree. We can’t be united if I am pretending to be someone that I am not. I’m glad that Renata brought this up.

    -Alan