Today's Christian Unity post is a guest post, from Nate Hill, who I went to church with for several years. Nate, of all the people I asked to write a guest post, or a post on their own blog that I could link to, is probably the most in the camp of what might be called the emergent and/or postmodern church. He offers some interesting perspectives here on unity in terms of union with God, union across denominations, union across racial/ethnic lines, and unity between religions. Let us continue to work and pray for unity of all of those kinds!
Unity in the Church
Here are some of my thoughts about unity in the Church. I was asked by Daniel Lower to write down thoughts and my own conclusions I gained while in personal meditation. Unity comes in many different ways and can be a fairly ambiguous term, but in these simple paragraphs I will share thoughts and ideas started with unity between self and God, between self and creation, between congregations of other denominations, between different ethnic denominations and finally between other religions.
Self and God
Sometimes our darkest moments are meditations between ourselves and God. He often will encourage us to face times of pain in order for us to be healed. In certain cases of extreme pain being close to God can be a place we often run from. But through God and Him only can we face our scared past and come our closer to God and in greater unity with Him.
In C.S. Lewis’ book The Great Divorce a theme of things that get in the way of our focus from God is presented. Lewis describe interaction between angels and hell bound ghost, the ghost are confronted with the practices in their life which have become an idol such as, painting, appearance, and even a child. We often put any number of people, places, or practices in the way of God and all of these hinder our unity with God. Any of these things are fine by themselves but once they serve as a distraction from your Creator, then we are not wholly unified with God.
Gods grace is what brings our soul to unity with God. Our praxis’ helps us to live in a manner that supports a new life style, but only through Christ are we to be unified with God. Unity is defined by Christ bring us into community with Him.
Self and Creation
God is the creator of this world, how ever you believe that He accomplished this ultimately we come to a point where something being must have stated it all just as Aristotle writes in his theory of infinite regression, where something out side of existence must have started all motion.
Nature is a place where God meant for us the worship Him. Westerners build grand Cathedrals and Mega Churches to worship God, but how does that compare to a water fall, or the morning sun arching over snow capped mountains. We will never be able to compete with nature for splendor of a place to worship.
Believing this to be true, we as a western culture must make amends to creation before the coming of the Kingdom of God. Where once a grand forest stood, as far and the eye could see, now stands a strip mall with the latest consumer goods. St. Maximus the Confessor an Eastern Orthodox saint taught that Christ came back to reconcile all creation. Thus our place was to be the caretakers of the Earth and turn it into the new dwelling of God. Maybe we should do some rethinking, for I would not seat the creator of the universe in a cubical farm.
Dr. Randy Woodley at the Theology of the Land conference said “God spent 6 days on the Earth and only 1 day on us, seems a little arrogant to me to assume it all about us.” The Lord took great care in making the Earth maybe we as a culture could find new ways to treat it better by examining our consumption driven society, by creating some new to produce and replenish. Please don’t hear me supporting a form of socialism I think we can tweak our system with out resulting in a completely new system of government.
Between Congregations or Other Denominations
Unfortunately for the Christian community we can’t seem to agree on anything. We fight tooth and nail for doctrines that ultimately don’t stop any of us from being saved by grace doctrines such as infant baptism, or whether it is right to drink or not, whether dancing is right or wrong. There are doctrines that can lead to heresy and they must be confronted like Christology or Trinitarian theology but I ask you how much outside of these two great dogmas is just personal preference which helps an individual become closer to God which has been transformed into a moral imperative.
We as the Church must be willing to put doctrinal differences and aside and stop pointing the finger at others and start to realize that whether you are Methodist, Baptism, Pentecostal, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox we all share the same faith in Jesus Christ we are all saved by the same grace with was given at the death of our Lord, and brought into a reconciled relationship with our Creator Father God.
Our Churches have fallen apart because we can’t get along. We fight with one another like children in a school yard over praxis. The only way left to evangelize this world is love one another a cross denominational lines. We can celebrate our differences and keep our separate identities as long as we all view each other as parts of the Body of Christ. We can do this we can get our act together and be a multimillion person family.
Between Different Ethnicities
Racial reconciliation is a huge topic and is, to this day, a very sensitive topic because it is still so close to our culture. Barely a single generation has passed since the Civil Rights Movement, and still we have not come all the way. Our election of an African-American president was a monumental step in the right direction, but it is still only one step. Sunday morning is still the most segregated day of the week. There is an old saying that goes “birds of a feather flock together” this can not be more true for Sunday worship service.
I happen to be a white middle class male. I like being white, but I have come to realize I still don’t understand the depth of the prejudice that our culture faces and the prejudices that are still being displayed through the media. Jim Crow laws may be gone, but how many people still live in poverty condition because of white flight, and how many young men living in the inner city are convinced that the only way to succeed is to become a pro athlete or a rap artist. School in the inner city are still underfunded and left to decay. It shouldn't take too much observation to realize that our prejudice has just become more subtle.
For anyone who may actually read this blog post, I urge you to read “And justice for all” my John M. Perkins. This man's ideas can lead to lasting change in these poverty stricken areas if we can make the necessary resources available and be willing to take a risk in favor of loving our fellow humans.
God says to love your neighbor; well I say all created persons are our neighbor. Neighbor is not limited to the family next door, they are all the billions of people who can’t eat tonight, and they are all the children who will starve to death while you read this. Your neighbor is who Jesus called “the least of these”. Like I said above, I am a while middle class male, which means I have access to resource, these can be given to other in need, out of my excess and even out of need I can still give to others. Giving is a powerful way to combat our consumer drive society. Please don’t hear me talking about the white man's burden. I am definitely not in favor of that, but white people still hold all the keys to store house, thus we must share to unify us to every ethnicity.
This form of unity is tricky because in some extreme cases religions just don’t mix. All religions have forms of extremism it is not limited to the Middle East. Islam is first and foremost a religion of peace, and has a very disciplined life style. We Christian could learn a thing or two from their devotion to their faith.
If we Christians believe that Holy Spirit is alive and working through out the world what’s to say the Holy Spirit is not working within other religions. Other religions should be embraced because we love people all people. We should keep our faith in the process, but we should still love on people of other faiths. World unity will not come while it’s population is still killing each other in the name of God.
We can have conversations with other religions if we leave conversion off the table. Christians are allowed contact with other faiths without selling them Jesus. We must remember the finality of Christ and to us He is the one and only Son of God.
We can do it. We can unify with people from other religions because we still love them; they are still our neighbors. We may hold the truth of Christ in our lives but only through love and care are we going to communicate our message to other faiths.
Unity is connected, between all of us and God. Until we are united with God in our faith as Christians and we will never be united as a community of faith. Thus the faith of the individual is connected to the faith of the community. Love is the great connector, only from the overflow of our love for Christ will we able to love ourselves, creation, other denomination, other ethnicities, or other religions. Unity starts with a Love for God and unity ends with Love for God.