Finding Unity

Hey all, this is Stephen...

I still remember the moment in Iraq like it was yesterday. It happened so fast yet it will remain with me the rest of my life. I'm not talking about a roadside bomb or an ambush but instead, a meeting.

It was very early in the morning and I had spent much of the night searching semi-trucks. I happened to be searching the cab of one man's truck when I found a very worn leather bound book. All of the writing on the outside was worn so I opened it up. Much to my astonishment it appeared to be exactly what I thought it looked like...a Bible. I pulled aside the Kurdish-Iraqi man probably in his late 50's or early 60's  who drove the truck and asked him what this book I had found was. He told me in broken English that he was a Christian and this book was a Bible. I was shocked! He was the first local Christian I had run into. I told him that I was also a Christian and that I had recognized his book so I wanted to meet him and ask for sure if it was a Bible. This elderly man (67.9 is the average life expectancy) began to cry and then he did something I did not expect. He bear hugged me and he said to me in broken English, "It has been so long since I have met another Christian!" This truly is one of the most memorable moments of my life. I shared a moment with a fellow brother in Christ that I will probably never see again this side of heaven. I know it is very possible that he was a Catholic and just as likely that he was a Syriac Christian (these are the two major Christian branches in Iraq). I have doctrinal differences with both branches but at that moment it didn't matter.  The two of us had found unity, true unity. Maybe it was that we both felt alone as Christians, or maybe it was because it was early in the morning and we had been up all night. Whatever the reason doctrinal differences were put aside and Christian unity and the bond of love that only exists in Christ was clear and apparent. What is stopping people from always having unity like this?

I have been reading the book "Vintage Church" by Mark Driscoll and in it he quotes R.L. Omanson,

"Unity, however, does not demand uniformity. Indeed, from the beginning the church has manifested itself in many local churches (in Jerusalem, Antioch, Corinth, Ephesus, etc.); and the one New Testament church had neither uniformity of worship nor structures, or even a uniform theology....Unity is possible when we stop thinking of our church or denomination as the vine and all others as the branches. Rather, Jesus is the vine and all of us are branches."


What do you think about the church and unity? What can/should we sacrifice for the sake of unity in the church? What would it take to find unity among the 38,000+ denominations? Has the Restoration Movement (of which I am a part) lost it's plea for unity so desired by the men who began it?

Comments

  1. Great post. this is Paul Jordan BTW

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  2. Ryan Eidson tried to post this on the blog but had trouble. He sent this as an email so I thought I would post it...

    "The first step is to see that as disciples we are already united in Christ, that He is our unity! Once we have a revelation of our corporate identity, we can live together and practically express that unity, thus fulfilling His prayer for us. Our unity with each other and with Christ is the same that Jesus has with His Father throughout all eternity! ("I and the Father are one", "I am the Vine, you are the branches", many passages on this.)"

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  3. Ted Mountjoy tried to post this on the blog but also had trouble. Here is what he sent me...


    Unity is essential so that the world may believe that the Father as sent Jesus. Complete unity to let the world know that God indeed sent Jesus and that God loves them as he has loved His Son. (Jn.17:20-23).

    We should be willing to sacrifice anything but the one gospel (Gal. 1:6-9) and the ones listed in Eph.4:4-5 to have unity. There is just one body, on Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God & Father. One means one. Essentially "one" communicates that this "one" is essential for unity. However, these "ones" cannot be properly understood outside of the context of Eph. 4:1-3 which says to live a life worthy of the calling we have received. To be completely humble and gentle, being patent, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to KEEP the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

    Some churches of the Restoration Movement have and are willing to give up anything, "ones" included, to have unity which is just as bad as those who are not willing to give up anything including tradition, they see everything as essential. Some have given up part of the "ones", some have given up most all of the "ones", and some have not given up any of the "ones" but won't give up any of their traditions either. There are some who are willing to give up everything except the "ones" I believe this is what is needed to have unity among believers.

    Unity is found in following Christ if we truly follow Jesus the “ones” mentioned by the apostle Paul will be a natural result. So in answer to your question has the Restoration Movement lost it's pleas for unity so desired by the men who began it? Yes, for one I don't think half the people who attend our church know a thing about the Restoration Movement or its plea. In the more conservative churches of Christ they know about the Restoration Movement but hold on to the traditions as if they were mentioned as a "one" (essential. Therefore knowing and carrying out are completely two different things.

    It is a constant struggle to have unity among believers and each generation must discover and/or be taught to hold on to the essentials (Jesus) and give up what we prefer (die to ourselves).

    It's essential that we identify the "one body" because we're not called to be united with those who aren't of the “one body”. It is the unity of believers that must be united so that the world may believe. A believer is a follower of Christ, a disciple of Jesus. A disciple puts Jesus first above himself, everyone, and everything (Lk. 14:25-35). We won’t have unity with those who aren’t a disciple of Jesus, Jesus knew we wouldn’t (Mt. 5:10-12; 10:24-25, 32-39; Jn. 15:16-21; 17:14).

    It is essential that we are united with other disciples, which requires us to identify a disciple of Jesus. Stephen it sounds like your experience in Iraq was with a man who had committed himself to follow Jesus. Now he may have needed to be shown the way of God more accurately as Priscilla and Acquila did with Apollos, maybe not. But if he did when shown he would follow Jesus just as any disciples of Jesus does, unity happens through Jesus not just doctrine, even though doctrine is essential.

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