One of the guiding principles of the church I am currently serving is, unity in the Faith. That statement raises several questions. What is unity? What is the Faith? Why unity in the Faith rather than unity in something else? What is it that unifies believers? Etc. Throughout this week I will attempt to answer at least some of these questions. Let’s begin with the question of unity. What is unity?Jesus prayed, in John 17:20-21
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.His prayer was that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, would be one as he and the Father are one. What does unity between the Father and the Son look like? After asserting, “So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God; And yet they are not three Gods, but one God,” the Athanasian Creed goes on to say,
There is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.
There is one God, but three coeternal, coequal persons. That is a mystery we cannot wrap our heads around, but we can believe it. The Father is not the Son; the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father, but Father, Son, and Spirit is one God. When Jesus says that he and the Father are one, he is not talking about uniformity. He is talking about unity. They are coequal, coeternal, and one God, yet they are not the same.
We can learn from this about our own call to unity. We are called, as believers in Jesus Christ, to be one, but we are not called to uniformity. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 says, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.” The text then goes on to say, “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ” (1 Cor 12:12). The Body of Christ, the Church, is one, yet many members with different gifts. There is both unity and diversity within the Body.
We often confuse unity with uniformity. Uniformity means that we agree about everything. Uniformity means that we all think exactly the same. That is not unity. Unity recognizes that we are unique individuals with unique gifts and callings. Because God has called you to a particular ministry or passion does not necessitate that the whole church is called to that same ministry. Because we have differences of opinions on how things should be done, or what we should be doing does not mean that we are not in unity. Unity recognizes and respects the fact that God has gifted each of us differently. Each part is needed. Each perspective is valuable. In 1 Corinthians 12:15-20 the Apostle Paul teaches,
If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.Unity means “many parts, yet one body.” Unity means that we agree on the core tenents of the Faith while honoring the differences within the Body. Unity means that we embrace together the mission to which God has called us while respecting the different gift, perspectives, and callings that God has placed on each individual. Unity is not uniformity. We are called, as believers, to unity. We are not the same, but we are one in Christ. Is that what the World sees when it sees us?