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?
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.