Unity is a concept often discussed but rarely accomplished. Recently, I've seen it modeled well.
Earlier this month, I sat in a gathering with the leaders of Christian festivals from around the UK. They represent events with between 3,000 and 30,0000 in attendance. Our backgrounds are diverse: Pentecostal, Anglican, New Frontiers, Methodist, Calvary Chapel (that's me, in case you were wondering), and more. Together, we are praying towards a John 17, Gospel-focused unity. This past weekend, I joined with church leaders from Wadebridge, Cornwall for the annual churches together service. We read from Matthew 5 and 1 Peter 2, spoke of the salt of the Gospel, sown into our communities, and the radiant light of the Gospel, reflected through His church. The joy of Christian fellowship was tangible.
As I write this article, earlier this evening I sat with 8 believers from 7 towns and 8 churches, joining together to serve in the name of Jesus in the Calais refugee camp. These 8 represent a true spectrum: 3 countries, 1 lead pastor, 6 women, 2 men, 1 Saviour. Their prayers centered around the calling and leading of the Spirit in their own lives and for this trip. The meeting began with this quote shared by my friend, Edme Brink: "Don't pat yourself on the back for making a difference in someone's life, if the difference wasn't eternal." Stirring words. Together, these men and women gather around what is eternal. It is right and necessary to rejoice in these gatherings, to celebrate the good and rejoice in the ways the people of God are simply together...the people of God. As the Psalmist wrote:
“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
Amen. At one of these gatherings, a simple statement arrested my attention: "There must, of course, be lines to our unity." It caught me off guard. I was so overjoyed with my brothers and sisters, with the widening kingdom vision, with the flow of creative ideas around cups of tea... (It's England. Everything happens around tea), that I slightly rebelled against the statement. I have been turning it over in my heart and my mind, and my realization is that there is truth and authority in this statement. Our unity can only come, truly and faithfully, around the one King we claim. It's easy to quote this verse: “Eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). And forget that the context is that the unity of the Spirit is found in the clear and recognized, biblical Gospel of Jesus Christ: “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:4-6). Our true unity is not so we can feel good about ourselves. It is not simply to rejoice in how glad we are that we love each other. True unity holds to the lines: of Jesus Christ, the only Saviour, of God, the only Father, of the Spirit, the only true Comforter, of the Word of God, the only truth. Period.
It is when we rest in these things that we discover a unity that can carry a continuing witness to the world around us. Unity is a beautiful thing. We are commanded to it for Christ's sake, not our own. Let our lives be a witness to the unity that holds to a strength and anchoring lines. “That they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21).