This week, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to live in unity, specifically the unity of mind and purpose which followers of Christ should have with one another. It honestly seems really hard to me right now. This last week, with the murders of nine African-American Christ followers in Charleston, the debate over the Confederate flag, and the Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage in all 50 states, I have seen quite a variety of opinions and debates on social media and not a lot of unity. Some of these opinions have been wisely and gently stated, some have been very honest and raw, some have been rude or hurtful, and some have been well-intentioned, but patronizing. To me, the internet did not seem like a safe place for a few brief words which might, unknown to me, have hurt a friend or almost definitely caused dissension and arguments.
I have certainly been thinking about these recent events and what my personal response should be as a Christian, but even more so I have been thinking about how to preserve the unity of the body of Christ, even when opinions differ to the extremes (or not so extremes). How do I live in unity with someone who has decided to follow Christ and relies on His grace, yet behaves in the way I would not expect a believer to behave? That different behavior might be a hotly debated issue like sexuality, extra-marital sex, or drug abuse though honestly, I also find myself confused and uncomfortable around Christians who consistently complain, gossip, joke crudely, or find pleasure in entertainment that glorifies something wrong. I often feel like I am being judged for not joining in or supporting a certain activity even when I am not judging them, just abstaining for the benefit of my own conscience. I want to be united with these believers because we are told to be united, yet it sometimes feels like our purpose is not the same, as if we are no longer on the same track. We are supposed to be one-minded in following Christ’s example and obeying his command to make disciples from all nations. What do I do in that case? Do I ignore what they are doing and act like I do not have a problem with it? Do I point out to them where I have been convicted in a certain area in which they might have to check themselves (only in certain situations with certain people after much prayer)? Do I acknowledge to myself that they are off track, but fight to see their good points and exhort them? Do I move on and try to find more like-minded friends? That seems like the easiest thing to do at times. Maybe my response would be different in each instance?
I do not know how it is supposed to work yet. I do know that it is the Spirit’s job to convict and draw together and that I also somehow have a part in encouraging and exhorting the church. But wow, isn’t the Spirit sweet when you can really sense it emanating from another human being? That is what helps us live in unity, the One Spirit. I Corinthians 12:13- “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body-Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all were made to drink the one Spirit”. Let’s stay full of the Spirit, always striving for unity, willing to overlook personal offenses, thinking about how Christ is appearing to the world through us. Romans 8:5b- “but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit”. (Actually, all of Romans 8 talks about this)