Unity has a purpose
OUR CONNECTION MATTERS
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13, NIV)
Unity is a word that’s been tossed around quite a lot over the last couple of years in The United Methodist Church. Many questions have been asked about unity, including the question of whether or not we could/should/would seek unity at any cost. Some have offered the opinion that we should seek unity in our common zeal to reach the lost even as we go our separate ways to live out our mission of reaching the lost in different ways and in different veins of theological thought.
I’d like to suggest that we consider unity from a different perspective. Perhaps the words of Paul in the fourth chapter of Ephesians would be helpful as we consider unity and seek a deeper understanding of the word.
Paul writes that unity has a purpose. The purpose is to come together in faith and knowledge of Jesus Christ so that we may become mature and reach the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. What is the “whole measure of the fullness of Christ?” Let’s consider the words of Paul found in Philippians 2:1-11. In this passage we’re told that Jesus was equal to God but did not hesitate to give up that equality in obedience to God. Jesus gave up his status in heaven to take on the lowly status of humanity, to go even lower by becoming a servant, and even lower still by becoming obedient to death itself, even the most despised death – death on a cross. Jesus gave up the glory and presence of God to walk on earth as a human and then die on the cross so that you and I do not have to experience eternal death. What is the fullness of Christ? It is humbling oneself to take a servant’s role in order that others may want to know the God who inspires you to do so.
As a follower of Christ who longs for the kind of unity that seeks to build up the body as it moves all of us toward maturity as a disciple, I should be willing to do what Christ did – humble myself, take on a servant’s role, wash the feet of others, even those with whom I disagree, and ask what I might do to serve them.
As we seek to serve, we build the body of Christ and we achieve unity in service. And we become a witness to the world of how the body of Christ can love and serve others even while disagreeing on theological issues. This is not meant to diminish the theological issues that are the basis for our disagreements, but instead should demonstrate that even in our disagreements we can be one in our love for and service of Christ and the world that Christ came to save. We can be alive together in witness so that our love for Christ can overcome disagreements, allowing us to move forward toward maturity together.
Dr. Nita Crump serves as Director of Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.