The powerful blast of an atomic bomb is from the dividing of atoms in a process called fission. What I’m seeing across the church (and in our nation) is something like fission. There is energy and passion released in our divisions. We feel justified since we’re “not like them” and feel empowered as we push them away. This energy of division is easily seen in many areas of life, but in the church, it can only exist because of a lie.
The lie that permits our division is fake unity. This fake unity is built around traditions, doctrines, worldviews, and political views. It’s a unity that fools our senses since it looks and feels like unity. After all, we all agree, we’re alike. But it is a unity created by subtraction as unwanted and uncomfortable differences are energetically rejected.
Real unity is only found in Jesus. Consider, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NASB95) These were the big divisions in the church of that day; divisions which are effectively wiped out in Christ.
We should take the literal meaning of Galatians 3:28 but also look at what those pairs represent. In Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek. This pair covers differences in culture, doctrine, politics, worldview, and heritage.
In Christ, there is neither slave or free. Our professional status, level of education, employment status, wealth or poverty, may differ widely, but in Christ, we are one.
In Christ, there is neither male nor female. This goes beyond differences in gender and includes all other innate physical differences such as race, color, ability, and ethnicity. All of these things (which humankind divides over, fights over, and takes pride in) are made less important because of our shared love and belonging in Christ.
The world thrives on the fission of tribalism, but the kingdom of God is revealed in unity despite our differences. Jesus modeled this for us in the twelve He chose as His closest disciples. There were huge differences between them which were swallowed up in Christ. Differences of politics, life experience, and education disappeared in the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus.
So, why does the church seem powerless? Could it be that we’ve adopted the ways of the world, finding our power and energy in division instead of in Christ? Consider this observational promise by Jesus, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35, NASB95) Could our powerlessness stem from a lack of love for one another?
Jesus didn’t declare that all men would know His followers by the purity of their doctrine or the power of their faith or the passion of their actions, but by their love for one another. Perhaps the greatest test of faith isn’t successfully praying for someone’s healing, but loving our sisters and brothers in Christ who are different than us. If you want more power to affect the nations, more power to shine the light of Christ, more power to reach the unreachable then love one another and Jesus all the more.
I’m not advocating some flavor of fake ecumenicalism or man-made uniformity. I am advocating a simple love for one another because of our shared life in Jesus regardless of any label or tribe or division by which we identify ourselves. The world could care less about most of our differences, they wouldn’t know Calvinism from Arminianism or cessationism from continuationism. Our internal wars may release passion, energy, and light, but they produce precious little sun-like warmth that draws others to Jesus.
That’s the difference you see. The sun is powered by fusion, the joining of atoms, instead of fission, the dividing of atoms. In this kind of unity our differences remain, I’ll still be an older-middleaged mostly conservative rural mid-western evangelical white guy of German anabaptist heritage seeking the empowered radical middle. And you will be who you are. Perhaps you’re a lot like me or nothing like me, but if your life is in Jesus we can stand, work, and walk together empowered by the warmth of His love.