Unity is not Uniformity
Recently a sermon was preached at our church on the importance of unity. Well, this is a recurring theme it seems - there have been more than one, or two sermons on this topic in the past year or two. I have always had a lot to say on the subject, but my thoughts whirl in my head late at night and fizzle out before I can get up to write them down. So I'll give it a go now even if my thoughts are a bit jumbled at times.
Unity is a nice word - something we can all embrace to some degree. It just sounds - idyllic, utopian, peaceful... Somehow, if we dress it up enough and water it down enough we can all come to a place of saying 'yes, I want unity...'. Of course we want unity. I would love it if everyone agreed with me! Ha ha, of course that will never happen. It took me a long time to realize that and to give up my striving for all my ideals to be in place and implemented.
I tell people I have opinions, often strong ones, on just about every topic out there. There are probably a few that escape my radar of opinionated-ness. Like the colour of a carpet or ....(trying to think of something else...surely there is something else I don't have an opinion on... nope, can't think of anything else). But I can have unity with many (any?) who don't agree with me on my many opinions.
I am speaking specifically of spiritual unity - a unity that allows me to worship with another Christian believer. The topic of unity between the faiths is something I don't care to write about at this time. (Like, unity in seeking solutions to common problems of society etc.) For me the issue of unity has had a lot to do with preferences, doctrinal fine-points, aesthetics and the like. Raising these issues is like hitting the hot-button of ire and opinion. Everyone holds some particular doctrinal fine-point, preference in aesthetics and the like (I think - I could be wrong).
So how can a person like me, who has strong ideas, preferences and opinions fellowship with those who don't share my views on all these things? It is not as hard as it sounds. I took to narrowing down what I need in order to fellowship in unity. I came up with a couple of things - like the Deity of Christ, the centrality and exaltation of Scripture as God's Word and... and... I was trying to come up with more. I might at some later date. (I have to leave that open in case I find something else).
So you don't like the same kind of music I do? I can worship in unity with you, and even in a style I don't prefer, because this does not bar me from worshipping Christ as God. Does it go against my grain? Does it make me uncomfortable? Perhaps, but it's time to get over it. Seriously, we need to force ourselves to let old hang-ups go and ask the hard questions: Why does it go against my grain? Is this a moral issue? Does it just not 'feel right' to me? Is there anything in Scripture that supports my opinion/preference? Many times asking these questions brings only a quiet 'oh' in response. Time to eat humble pie and learn a little unity I say.
So you don't subscribe to the exact same doctrinal fine-points I do? I can fellowship with you, and have unity with you, even when you may not be in my camp, because this (unless you're an outright heretic!) does not hinder me from worshipping Christ as God. Am I comfortable with your doctrine? Perhaps not. Do I think you're wrong? Probably. Does that really matter? If it does, it's God's business and mine to lovingly embrace you as my fellow believer and move on in unity. Is there room for helpful dialogue? Of course! And well there should be! (And for all the unity lovers out there - don't confuse honest debate and sharpening each other with disunity! These are not the same)...
I have only hit on two so far. There are many more to come. I'll have to do part two one of these days.