Kingdom Principle: Unity is a celebration of intimacy not a compromise of identity.
The Church must learn 2LAF in its brokenness.
|Acts 16:16-34||Psalm 97||Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21||John 17:20-26|
The lectionary calendar marks the ascension of Christ from the earth this week. It is 40 days after His resurrection that Christ returns to the heavens leaving his disciples with a two-fold promise.
- First, I will send the Holy Spirit.
- Second, I will come again.
We continue in the season of Easter which will culminate next week as we celebrate Pentecost. Pentecost is the coming of the Holy Spirit upon this earth establishing the church as the unified body of Christ. Last week we were given promise #1, this week we celebrate promise #2; Jesus is coming again quickly. As the disciples stood and watched the Lord ascend up to the heavens, (Luke 24:44-53) we too stand under the clouds as he returns. In standing under (his authority and power) we understand with clarity all that is coming to pass. Every time there is a display of God’s Glory here on earth, it is a fulfillment of Jesus’s promise to come again.
The promise to come again, is coupled with a prayer that we (Jesus’ disciples) shall be one as Jesus and the Father are one. Unity can be defined as being in a state that is undivided or unbroken. The world once enjoyed this kind of unity with one common language and a mutual goal: to build a city, with a tower that reaches the heavens. It was in unity that humanity collaborated together in undivided and unbroken dedication to achieve a goal. (Genesis 11:4) Yet this display of unity displeased God to the point that he separated them all over the earth and confused their language. This global disunity is only overcome in Pentecost, and it takes an act of God for us to resist the temptation to rebuild ivory towers that have come to be identified as the church. How can a God who longs for unity, be so disapproving with humanity’s efforts to be unified?
The answer is simple; when Love is not the basis of unity, then whatever unifies people will fail to display God’s glory. (no matter how glorious the mission/vision, worship songs, staff, programs etc…) The tower of Babel, was a visible display of unity, but a breach of love. Therefore what Jesus is praying for in John 17 is not simply unity, rather it is an intimate exchange of love the bonds hearts, so that there is no longer two, but only one. This is Jesus’ prayer to the Father for the church, not our charge to fulfill it. We must embrace that oneness emerges as the Fruit of love because of bond of the Spirit of Peace, not our efforts at legalism or binding ourselves to agreements and statements. All too often we mistake the hope of unity as being what we need, and in doing so – we make it an end goal. This error – the pursuit of unity – is for our glory not the Glory of God.
The problem of a pursuit of unity is that it will move us beyond our comfort level into to a reality that love breaks you. We must be broken (as opposed to having it all together) to enjoy unity. Most efforts for unity are about getting the right answers, organizing around the right points then calling others to who agree with us to be in unity. In this our glory becomes a dividing line of truth. In an effort have unity the church has reached for a man-made glorious demonstration of oneness. Short-sighted unity is the call of conformity; it is a compromise of identity at the cost of intimacy. The attempt to do something glorious in order to call for unity will not bear the fruit of love. God desires His glory to be displayed, but will not allow His glory be confused with a man-made version of Glory. (Isaiah 43:6-7, 48:9-11, Matt5:16, John 14:13, Acts 12:23, Romans 11:36, 1 Cor. 10:31)
Unity was displayed in the jail cells of Paul & Silas after the earthquake. The inmates were bound by love not simply shackled in prison. (My premise is that Jesus showed up in that cell, in the same way the Spirit of Jesus prevents Paul from traveling to Bithynia – Acts 16:7) I am not sure which is the greater act of God; that the walls of the jail broke, or Paul & Silas nor the other prisoners make a break for it, or when the jailer began to wash their wounds and brought them to his house. The bottom line for Paul was that love is measured as forgiveness & freedom united and exchanged. This expression of love & acceptance had not a hint of judgment as if they did not deserve to be in jail. The jailer had not previously known this kind of love. It was authentic worship given to God and radical obedience to love that made way for unity to emerge.. If Paul would have sought (worldly) glory, by demonstrating spiritual power to break-out of the chains, then rallying the prisoners to his side (calling for authority), THEN invited the jailer to join with them because of Love – it would make a great movie, yet never resulted in their unified hearts.
Are you willing to allow love to cover a multitude of sins? For this is the only means to unity in the body of Christ. We need the power of the resurrection to restore the body of Christ to unity. Might we begin moving in this direction by calling for the power of love to resurrect our physical body. God has chosen “us” to be the display of his Glory. (Ephesians 1:4-6, 12, 14) Is your body (physically) a vessel to demonstrate the glory of God. If not, call upon God to resurrect your body. This is not a quick fix, rather this is a call for restoration and revival so that you can live into the abundant life giving act of love. Resurrection requires Power! This same call is for the Body of Christ. Our pursuit as the church must be to be a vessel by which love will flow through us, rather than building a church that is unified, let’s be the church that is broken. God’s holiness will be expressed in confident humility as we bear with one another in love. (Ephesians 4:1-2)
While we can’t make unity happen, we can do things that prevent unity. This is where the call to “stand under” comes before we can “understand”. This stance of “under” yields a humility and confidence that allows us to stand in the presence of God- to even see Him Face-to-Face, it is an act of submission not weakness. (Matt. 5:8) “Under” is in contrary to the power and positions of this world, so that God’s granting of favor and flow are displays of Glory demonstrating our unity with Him.
The key barrier to unity which we are to remove is judgment. (Matt 7:1-5) The Psalm declare this week that there are “insider’s” and “outsiders”, the “saved” and “lost”, and that God brings “destruction” to some & “delight” to others. Further, those who love the Lord are even called to hate evil. How then can judgment be a hindrance to unity? When we stand in judgment attempting to bring a conviction of change– we are working against the prayer of unity. This is because we are attempting to do the work of the Spirit rather than being led by the Spirit. (John 16:7-9) May it suffice to say here – Love is Just, and removes our need to Judge. There is only one true Judge and we are not the one. We must move in “Love, Acceptance and Forgiveness”. A book by that same title shares the valuable insight that “The church is not broken and it is only broken people who can change the world.” The call this week is not to minimize what it means to be separate; rather the call is in our separation to bring understanding of what it means to be saved.
Do you desire Unity? Then learn 2LAF
- Listen – Accept – Forgiven
- Love – Appreciate – Forgive
Has Unity eluded you? You may have learned 2CRI rather than 2LAF.
- Condemn – Reject – Ignore
- Conceal – Rationale – Inflate
Thanks Casey for sharing, especially this season in life.
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