Friday, November 23, 2018

Overcoming Strife and Division: How can the church build unity among believers?

1 Corinthians 1:10 ESV "I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment."

It's no secret that we live in a time of great divisions and differences.  Western society seems to be in state of shifting identity.  And as humanity in the west attempts to understand who they are and what values they represent, we see the same cultural conflicts begin to show themselves in the body of Christ.

It's also no secret that the church of Christ on Earth is called to a unity that transcends the divisions and conflicts of this world.  Sometimes the church has failed to properly show that unity. But instead of ragging on the church and it's failures, how instead can we help build toward unity?  How can the body of Christ transcend cultural conflicts and ideological differences?  Let's look at a few ways to approach this strife and division.

1. Recognize that deep differences in values do exist.  There are major value differences between different sectors of our society.  A student at MIT or Princeton working on a law degree or a doctoral thesis is going to have in most cases radically different viewpoints than a rural steelworker who lives in a town of 12,000 people.  So be it.  Differences do exist.  As Christians, how can we focus on what unifies us, instead of divisions?

2 Corinthians 13:11 ESV "Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you."

2. Don't use the pulpit or the body of Christ to propagate your ideology.  If you happen to be a social justice minded progressive activist or a stalwart constitutional conservative libertarian, in either case, as we worship together as Christians, and we both take up positions in leadership in our churches, whether volunteering for a can drive or serving as a youth pastor, learn to separate the ideology from the Christianity.  

The ideology says that political and cultural values come first, and Christianity comes second.  Learn to reverse that.  Christianity comes first, and the values of the word of God, and secondary all the values of the ideology, whether conservative or progressive, or whatever else it may be, socialist, or libertarian and so on.  This is harder than it seems. Because we will want to use our platform to support our agenda.  But should we?  That is the real question.  Is the pulpit for scripture, or for ideology? We are a deeply divided society, but, we can unite around the common values of the Bible and Christianity. 

Philippians 1:27 ESV "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel"

3. Facilitate Communication and Relationships. It's pretty easy to argue with someone over social media or email. It's a lot harder to do the same thing eye to eye, in the same room.  When we converse face to face, we are forced to realize that our opponents are just people.  We realize these people are humans, not monsters.  And that makes it hard to keep yelling and battling it out over ideas.  Then again, even face to face there are some things that simply won't be able to be worked out.  Different people have different viewpoints and opinions.  That's how the world is.  But we all also have many things in common.  How can we build on those unifying beliefs to build unity in the body?  

This is not to say that if we all come together and talk then we're all going to sing kumbaya or anything.  That sort of pie in the sky just isn't realistic.  But with more communication, perhaps unity can be improved in the body of Christ.  We have differing views, but we have common beliefs as well. 

Romans 13:8-10 "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law."

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