Unity through Our Common Lord
Would you say you live in unity with other Christians?
I would. Until recently. Let me explain.
Most of my Christian life, I have convinced myself that I am living in unity with my fellow believers. But, I have been realizing lately that what I often take for unity is really just an overlap of opinions and values. In other words, I get along well with the Christians I am around because we largely hold the same views on morality or politics or worship music styles or specific points of theology. And since I don’t go to churches or build friendships with people I disagree with, I can convince myself that I am obeying Jesus’ command to live in unity with my fellow Christians.
Over the past year and a half, I have been realizing that this “unity” I have lived in is not as strong or deep as I thought. In fact, I would even say it is not Christian unity at all. I tend to think that I love people, until we have a strong disagreement where we don’t see eye to eye. And then love is hard. Maybe you have an easier time with this than me. I am just speaking from my heart.
Last night I did not sleep well. I woke in the middle of the night stressed and frustrated with the lack of unity and love I have been feeling both toward and from some of our Christian friends. Over the course of the pandemic, our family has landed on a different perspective than most believers we know. Now the pandemic has just been the situation in which all of this has hit home for me. But later, or maybe for you right now, the struggle to love or be united with other Christians may stem from something about race relations or childraising or Bible translations or the leadership style of our local church.
But for now, for me, the issue has been the pandemic. And honestly, I have often had feelings of judgment toward others or of being judged by them, or of despising others or being despised. Using the words ‘judge’ and ‘despise’ may seem strong, but I am taking them from Romans 14. God speaks straight. On my own, I don’t think of myself as a judging, despising sort of person. I like to think of myself as loving and reasonable, but, honestly, as someone who probably sees things more clearly than others most of the time. Again, just trying to be real. I often think about why others are wrong (but isn’t that called judging?) and wonder how they could be so deluded (sounds rather like despising, don’t you think?). Well, so what is the solution? How can I break free from judging and despising and return to love and acceptance toward other believers?
This morning, during my quiet time, the Lord really ministered to me from a verse in Isaiah.
O LORD our God,
other lords besides you have ruled over us,
but your name alone we bring to remembrance.
This phrase really jumped out at me: other lords besides you have ruled over us. I think that a large part of the disunity or lack of love that I feel toward fellow Christians has its roots here. If I have only one Lord who rules over me, then my opinions or my experiences or my choices themselves are not my lords. I can hold opinions that differ from others, as long as they do not rise to the level of lordship in my own heart. But, if I allow an opinion or value or anything else to be my lord, practically speaking, so that I cannot imagine how someone else would live differently, then I am allowing other lords besides the LORD to rule over me. And that’s where my disunity and difficulty to love come from.
This verse gives me real, tangible hope. There is a way to restore and even deepen my relationships with the Christians I disagree with and who disagree with me. I need to keep clearing the altar of any lord who tries to rise up above the LORD in my life. So, when I notice myself getting emotionally charged or rehearsing differences between myself and others, I should see that as a warning sign that I once again may have other lords ruling over me.
This morning as I continued to pray over this verse, I felt much more able to accept my brothers and sisters, my friends, with whom I still have disagreements. I doubt that we will come to see eye to eye on the pandemic. And even if we do, some other issue will arise down the road that will once again threaten to supplant Jesus’ place as my Lord. But, God is helping me see that his Lordship is the key to maintaining unity and love at all times. When I am intentional to honor the Lord Jesus Christ as my Lord, and remember that only he is the Lord of my friends, however strongly they may hold views that differ from mine, then I can return to peace, unity and love.
Only our common Lord makes Christian unity possible.