DISPLACING DIVISIONS AND EMBRACING DISCOMFORT
Jesus removed the dividing wall of hostility, the rules and regulations of the Old Testament Law, which separated Jews and Gentiles. He did this in order to create a unified church (Ephesians 2:14-16). To further, rather than frustrate, Jesus’ agenda, we need to make sure we aren’t putting up new walls of division. In our churches today, it can be easy to trade our identity of a unified people of God for comfortable worldly divisions.
The church in Corinth was no stranger to disunity. In response, Paul urged them, “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” Unity doesn’t happen by accident. It takes hard work and some discomfort for each of us.
So, what kind of walls of division do we need to watch out for and fight against?
1 // Racial
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour in Christian America.” Nearly sixty years later and his indictment still holds true today as the church continues to be divided amongst racial lines. We must actively seek to welcome, learn from, and collaborate with believers of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds to truly portray God’s church.
2 // Socioeconomic
Even the church in the first century had a problem with this as James writes to them and urges them not to show partiality towards those who are rich over those who are poor (James 2:1-13). Especially as our neighborhoods become increasingly divided along socioeconomic lines, we have to actively pursue relationships and partnerships to break down these divisions.
3 // Generational
Whether younger or older, we have to fight the tendency towards valuing preferences over oneness. Maybe you’re too committed to a particular worship style, too focused on certain traditions, or too consumed by being cutting edge. Our highest priority—above all preferences—should be to make sure our churches provide opportunities to cross generational boundaries and learn from believers in all walks of life.
4 // Political
If we had forgotten how political lines could divide us, this past year dealt a pretty hefty reminder. Intelligent and compassionate Christians land on both sides of partisan lines, but instead of defining ourselves along these political lines, God expects us to pursue unity as his church.
5 // National
National boundaries don’t exist from God’s perspective. Unity in Christ supersedes any manmade line placed on a map. Our brothers and sister in Costa Rica, Syria, China, and India are just as important to the church as any other.
We can’t evidence a unified church to the world if we allow these boundaries and barriers to thrive and hinder our solidarity. Each of us carries the responsibility to pursue unity by asking ourselves how Jesus is calling us to step out of our comfort zones, break down barriers, and pursue unity for the church so that Jesus can show up in power for us and for the world.