Is our nation is more divided than ever? Within our turbulent political climate, an atmosphere of distrust and even hostility is tangible between those who hold differing views.
Even within our churches, difference all too often dominates the conversations and stifles progress. Stories of schisms can overshadow everything else and make for juicy headlines to the secular world looking on.
This is certainly not what Jesus prayed for in John 17:22-23:
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Unity too often seems a distant dream, doesn’t it? But perhaps that’s because our understanding of unity is possibly a little skewed. In fact, perhaps it’s our idea of unity that got us into this mess in the first place.
Unity v Uniformity
According to the dictionary definition, unity is, “the state of being united or joined as a whole.” Being joined together implies that there is some common thread to link us. However, it certainly doesn’t mean that we have to be in total agreement. Unity is not uniformity.
And this is important. Too often we are encouraged to ‘unite’ around various issues and in ‘uniting’ with those who think like us, we inevitably pitch ourselves against those who don’t. This is where polarisation begins, sides are chosen and the battle begins to encourage others to move to our point of view.
But how does all this help to progress the Kingdom as Jesus prayed in John 17:23; “Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
There’s not much love being shown when the battle lines are drawn and insults being slung!
Unity is Not Easy
The thing is, it’s easier to seek unity with those who look, think and feel the same way as we do, than it is to be unified with those who have different points of views and alternative life experiences.
However, when we do stop for a moment to see Jesus through the lens of someone else’s experience, then we might just encounter God in a completely new way ourselves.
Unity isn’t about glossing over the differences and pretending they’re not there – it’s about facing up to them, accepting them, and loving each other anyway.
As churches we can get hung up on ourselves – but it’s really not about us. It’s about Jesus.Jesus wants to point people to God and his incredible love for them. That’s not to say that details don’t matter. They do. They shape the way we express our faith in every aspect of our lives.
But as Christians we need to find ways to graciously discuss our differences, without losing sight of the thread that ties us all together: God’s love.
Love is Patient
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:36-40,“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ ”
Love is so much more than a nice notion of peace and harmony. Love takes effort, it takes self-control, it requires us to be selfless. But Jesus is loud and clear. We should set our differences aside and focus on loving God and those around us – whoever they are and whatever they might believe.
Here at Cinnamon we’re faith-based and not faith-biased. We’re inspired by Jesus to help churches from a range of denominations and backgrounds to love their communities.
It’s a simple notion that we recognise is often harder to live out in the reality. Through the support of our Cinnamon Advisors we help churches to navigate the pitfalls and complications that come with ‘loving thy neighbour.’
It can be tricky, but it can also be incredible beautiful. If your church wants to love more, then we’d love to help you.