I want to attempt to give some very personal and fallible thoughts on unity. Having been married for 47 years, having been a parent for 45 years, and having pastored churches for nearly 50 years, I have ample reason for struggling with this very messy issue.
There isn't a lot of difference between a family, a church, or a denomination in terms of working with people. We are different from one another but people are just people at any level of association and unity will always be a work in progress.
Families often choose to struggle behind closed doors for whatever reason, but John Powell may be right when he said that a family is unhealthy to the level of it's secrets. A church tends to be a little more upfront with problems perhaps, or maybe not, but they have them. The denomination that pretends that only positive things are going on and refuses to deal with the real problems that everyone knows are there is as unhealthy as that family behind closed doors.
It is a rare person or group that can face their own weaknesses and openly deal with issues. But for unity to be maintained as a reality, a lot needs to be thought through and talked about sensibly, as well as openly, whether it's two people or thousands of people in the group.
How can people so different maintain unity? What are effective guidelines for building a united group...whichever group is being refered to? How do you agree on those guidelines? How do you hold people accountable who've agreed to those guidelines? You can see the questions are manifold. Answers are fewer. But some may be available for people willing to look for those answers.
We need to begin with a clear statement of scripture. In Eph. 4:7 Paul said we are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, the idea being He has already created us one in Christ. No need to create unity. He's done that. And notice there is no talk of a local church here. It's that One Body of verse 4 being refered to. We are one with all true believers and we know that group is made up of all who name Jesus as Lord. So, we must be able to maintain unity of some kind with differing churches, denominations, or groups...or...do away with the groups because unity IS to be maintained. Simple fact of scripture.
My goal is to to attempt to assist us in maintaining unity.This...in spite of differences whether personalities, gifts, preferences, denominations, or any other unique thing that is part of our makeup individually or as a group.
You can already tell I do not believe unity is equated with uniformity. It is really a spirit, heart, or attitude regardless of differences. It is that unique relationship where people, as strong as garlic and as opinionated as politicians, can walk away from encounters loving each other, respecting each other, and without giving up their uniqueness in an unhealthy way.This, whether those involved are strong, weak, outgoing, shy and reserved, or, as said before, strong as garlic. It is not a personality thing, it is a principle thing.
Unity doesn't eliminate struggles. In fact, true unity maintained necessitates struggles whether in a marriage, family, church or denomination. What follows in the weeks ahead will be one person's small attempt to give some handles that, perhaps, will help in the ongoing struggle of staying in unity.
Next time...four attitudes to be cultivated in any relationship.