Unity in the church is tested regularly by two different points of stress. These stress points push us toward discord and strife.
We struggle to know what unity looks like in the kingdom of God. I look around and I see people who are different from me. Different ages, situations, and settings are present in the church. Some young families have arrived to a worship service, and I can tell they are looking for people similar to them. Of course it is not just young families, but we all spend time searching for our own tribe. We can feel out of place or disconnected from a community when we don't find a common thread that will hold us together. Our community can unravel when we keep feeling different and out of place. I remember a person telling the story of visiting different congregations. They would drive through the parking lot before the service and see the different cars lined up in the spots. Would their beat up van fit in at this church or would they feel like outcasts?
St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 about how there are many different parts to the body of Christ, with Christ as the head. Different gifts, but the same Spirit. Different areas where we serve, but the same Lord. Different activities, but the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
There is in the Kingdom of God a celebration of differences that are united in serving the same Lord. The differences we celebrate are not our sins and violations of God's commands. The differences we celebrate are the variety of gifts that God has placed into us to make Himself known. Unity in the kingdom is not defined by us all looking or acting the same but by us all serving the same Lord.
In the kingdom of God we not only have different gifts, but the value of these gifts is flipped upside down from what the world may value. Paul goes on to explain in 1 Corinthians 12 that in the body the weakest and most hidden parts of the body are so composed that God gives greater honor to those parts that lack it in the world. The body of Christ is a mystery to the people who will value power and control. Christ works through the weak and forgotten to reveal His grace in the world. No one should find themselves discarded or unnecessary in the kingdom of God.
All these different gifts will tear us apart if we are not held together by the love of Christ. All these weaknesses that we identify in others and in ourselves will cause us to push away others or shrink away ourselves. Our unity in the church and in the world is found in the love of Christ. We do not demand a homogenous community that looks all the same. We believe in Christ to be the glue that holds us together.
The relationship with God will be disrupted by sin. We do ourselves no favors by pride in our sin. Find pride in God's amazing love for the sinner among us, because this love includes you. With God we no longer are defined by our sins but become revelations of the love of God in this world.
Gather, Nurture, Serve
At Our Shepherd we gather around God's Word. We nurture our faith as we live life together. We look for opportunities to serve in the world with our words and works so that we can make the love of God made visible. All three of these processes find there starting point in God. Our unity springs from the work of God. Our strength comes from God's gifts. If Jesus is not raised from the dead and still remains defeated by sin, death, and the devil then we are fools. But indeed Jesus is raised from the dead and so we live victorious for Him.