Last week we talked about that elusive goal, unity. It’s wonderful; it’s beautiful; it’s essential; it makes the gospel true in the eyes of unbelievers. But, it’s almost impossible. So how do essentially selfish creatures live in unity?
First, we must die to ourselves. Yep, that old gospel standard: death to self. If our flesh is the problem (and trust me, it is), then we must say no to the flesh. Death to our desires, to our own perspectives, to our need to be in control or to our need be right is essential for unity to thrive. This is probably the reason we find very few examples of true unity in the American church. We do not like death, we prefer comfort, happiness, and fighting for our “rights.” Yet, to have unity, we must deny ourselves daily.
Second, we must submit ourselves to God. Ooh, there’s another word we don’t like: submission. Truth is there is no Christian life without submission. Christians are those who have rejected their own self-rule and--denying themselves--have embraced the kingdom of God. Submission and self-denial go hand in hand. They are two heads of the same coin, two aspects of the one call: worship. Worship is not the singing of songs, no matter how much passion it is done with; it is a life lived in complete submission to God’s laws, God’s ways and God’s authority. If we are to live in unity, we must submit ourselves God and all of what that means.
Lastly, we must live out the gospel. Denial and submission are just the foundations of the gospel--the core is love. Love is not a silly emotion that comes and goes, but the difficult choice to act on behalf of someone else no matter the cost. This is the love Jesus modeled for us in his life and death. This is the love that will work for unity, because unity is work.
How are you working for unity in your local context? What are some of the ways you have had to deny yourself and chose God’s ways of love instead?
Being One? Is this possible?
"For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink." 1 Cor 12:13
"That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." Gen 2:24
"Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one." Deut 6:4
One. In the kingdom of God, one is a marvelous word. From God himself, to marriage, to the church, one is used to describe, not individuality, but unity. Just as God is one God in three persons (think about that too long and it will make your brain explode), husband and wife are called to be one. After 23+ years of marriage I can tell you that making the two one is no easy feat. In the same way, the people of God are called to be one. Why?
“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one.” John 17:20-22
Jesus reveals two reasons for the unity of the body in his prayer for future believers: first we must be one because God is one. It is core to humanity to be the image of God, the imago deo, in the world. God is the perfection of unity in diversity; the people of God are to reflect this divine trait. Secondly, it is part of our apologetic in the world. Through our unity, Jesus prays, the world will believe that the Father sent the Son. The unity of the body corroborates the gospel message.
Unity is beautiful, but it is difficult. It is a struggle for me to live in unity with one human being I chose and love. How difficult is it to be in unity with those we have not chosen, or even more so, may not like? Is the goal of unity, especially a unity across racial, ethnic, and economic lines, even possible? I confess, I often ponder this question. I am not sure human beings can pull this off. Actually, I am convinced they can’t. In our flesh, we cannot achieve unity, only through God’s Spirit is it even remotely possible. How do we practically do this? Check back next week for some of my ideas or share yours below in the comments section.
The photo above is exactly how I felt on social media yesterday. It happens every once in a while, not just to me but to many of my friends. We'll be sharing a different opinion/perspective on an issue and be met with serious hostility, usually from a Christian brother or sister. Because of a view I shared on disparities and double standards in perceptions of African-Americans vs. Caucasians. I was shamed and told that I was an affront to the Gospel and not a Christian leader.
This really shocked me. 1) I was just posing a question/alternative thought for discussion, 2) I welcomed all opinions (we are not a monolith) and 3) this issue definitely had nothing to do
With my love for Jesus or leadership in the Church. To the contrary, these types of discussions are meant to expose the subtleties of the SIN of racism and classism; to bring light to a very dark area in our underbelly and move us to a greater sensitivity and one day hopefully unity. I stated that despite our differing opinions, I would never suggest that disagreement would be tantamount to another person not being saved or a leader. It was not my intent to start or be involved in a quarrel. A QUARREL is an angry argument or disagreement, typically between people who are usually on good terms. So I took the post down.
Paul said that quarreling was something that Believers should avoid. God's servants had to learn to disagree agreeably, and have patience with the process of change in people's lives. I'm wondering how some of their disagreements about Gentiles being engrafted into salvation with the Jews might have gone...
Again I say,don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants. (2 Timothy 2:23-26)
I pray that the Lord will bring us to a maturity that enables us to have hard discussions without judgment and shaming that will not engender strife, but bring about UNITY in the Body of Christ, and that we won't quit along the way...
Share with permission
Original post: http://gracenotesbysadell.blogspot.com/2016/02/wednesdays-word-quarrel-sadell-bradley.html
Did you know that the first person to leave the U.S. and plant a church in another country was Black? Even though the Southern Baptist Convention has failed to recognize George Liele as the first overseas missionary from the US because he was not “sent out” like Adoniram Judson who went to Burma thirty years later, many acknowledge him as such. Liele is just one of the many forgotten names of African American missionaries.
In campus missions we often talk about the Christian heritage of the university. Most of our educational institutions were started for the training of missionaries and pastors. Even though our campuses are far from that today, university missionaries work to see God’s original vision for these strategic places fulfilled. We also believe that the heritage of George Liele and others like him should not be forgotten, but instead, should be built upon for the greatest mobilization of people of color the world has ever seen.
Today less than 1% of the 118,000 US missionaries are African American. This should not be! Our Father is calling our African American brothers and sisters into the harvest field, and it is our job as Christian leaders, to make straight paths for them. While the task may seem impossible in light of the cultural and economic obstacles most African Americans face trying to enter missions, we must step out in faith, do what we can, and trust God for the rest.
So we must grow our faith by remembering people of faith. We need to educate our congregations regarding the history of African American missions, making names like George Liele and David George as well-known as Fredrick Douglas and Martin Luther King. We need to teach about needs beyond our local community and help give our people a global vision. It takes the whole body to do the whole work, and they need to know they are part of the body!
Most importantly, we need to make sure we are including the call to missions as part of the calls we issue to those in our flock. Morgan Smith, Chi Alpha missionary to Tulane University in New Orleans told me, “I went on a missions trip while in high school and totally fell in love with missions, but I dismissed the idea that I myself could be a missionary. I had never seen anyone in missions that looked like me.” It wasn’t until her campus leader personally challenged her that she realized, God could use her too. Another one of our missionaries, Raydon Haskins, a native of Gary, Indiana, puts it this way, “You can’t answer a call you haven’t heard.”
Lastly, we need to personally work at helping those God calls to get to the mission field. We need to take the strong community elements in the African American culture and translate it into a mission’s partnership. Like the church at Antioch that sent out Barnabas and Paul, we need to become sending churches. As we teach our people to give to missions, we will give them the opportunity to partner with Jesus himself in the global mission of reaching the world.
The world has become a very diverse place, yet our missionary force is almost the complete opposite. In Chi Alpha we recognize the strength each ethnic and racial group brings to the table and desire that our missionary teams be as multi-ethnic as the places they serve. Currently, over 5% of our staff is African American and less than 85% Caucasian. Still, we have a long way to go. Will you partner with us in the vision of seeing every nation, tribe, people, and language not just reached but mobilized? Together we can see a whole new generation of George Lieles serving all around the world.