This post has a subtitle: “Why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity – or love?”
In the Pentateuch, we read, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deuteronomy 6:4 ESV) Jesus prayed that God’s children (his followers) would demonstrate that same unity: “[I ask] that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us… that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one…” (John 17:20-23 ESV) (By the way, in that same prayer, Jesus refers to the glory of God in the context of this unity… both his unity with God, our unity with God, and our unity with one another.)
Unity is part of God’s nature, just as love and holiness and justice and sovereignty is part of God’s nature. And, in Christ, we demonstrate that unity both in our relationship with God and in our relationships with one another.
So… returning to my subtitle… why do God’s children struggle so much to demonstrate that unity?
And, we can’t chalk this one up to problems that have arisen over the last 2000 years or so. How do I know? Because, in the New Testament, the problem of division and/or an exhortation toward unity and harmony is included in almost every (perhaps every) letter written to groups of believers – that is, groups of God’s children who are followers of Jesus Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit.
These people did not have hundreds of years of religious traditions, denominationalism, and bickering to blame for their divisions and their lack of unity.
No, those early believers could not blame others for their divisions. They could only accept that they were responsible for failing to live in the Holy Spirit as demonstrated by failing to live in unity with one another.
Unity is still part of God’s nature – part of the nature of the God who indwells and calls us his children and gives us a new nature and empowers us to live in that nature. When we do not accept and live with other believers as real brothers and sisters (as God accepts them in Jesus Christ), then we are not living in the power of the Spirit. When we do not live in the fellowship with one another (not just with our lips but with our lives), then we are not following Jesus Christ.
The problem is not with our traditions or their traditions. The problem is not with our hierarchy or their hierarchy. The problem is not with our denomination or their denomination. The problem is not with our system of theology or their system of theology.
The problem is with submission to God as his child and living in the power of the Spirit in order to demonstrate the nature of God – which includes unity with God and unity with his children.