Though complete unity among Christians will not be experienced until Christ returns, we are called to strive toward this unity now.
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“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.”
Ephesians 4:11-13 New Living Translation
For some reason we think that divisions among Christians are recent phenomena, or at least the result of the Reformation in the 16th century, when in reality these struggles with unity date back to the book of Acts.
We see the first century Christians wrestling with unity in Luke’s account of this fledgling community, especially as it affected the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christians.
This battle for unity continued through the early centuries of the church. There were divisions between churches in the east and west. There was division between bishops and their congregations. Councils were held in an attempt to bring unity.
These divisions were often caused by the same thing that separates Christians in the 21st century. They were divided over how to understand the Bible, especially as it relates to the person and work of Jesus.
I’m much more comfortable living with these divisions today than I was earlier in my pastoral ministry because I know the day is coming when God will unite his people ask we are gathered to him on the day of resurrection.
Yet, God calls us to strive after unity even if we might not realize it now. We are called to pray for unity and work toward unity with the Scriptures and message of the cross standing front and center.
My recent trip to Peru was a lesson in this struggle for unity. We built a church building together. We sang together. We prayed together, though in different languages. It would have been easy to let our differences separate us, but the purpose of proclaiming Christ in a remote village on the Ucayali River brought Christians together with different cultural backgrounds.
Ultimately, unity is not something we create, but a gift of the Holy Spirit. Even today, it is our faith in the crucified and resurrected Lord that brings us together.
May we celebrate this unity of purpose even as we anticipate the day when nothing will divide us in the body of Christ.
Copyright Douglas P. Brauner