There’s a lot of talk about unity in the church, some of which stems from a concern about the future of our church. A call for unity is a good thing, but what do we mean by “unity?” Is unity merely the absence of infighting? Is unity accomplished simply by taking a vote or adjusting certain practices?
I believe that true unity goes far deeper than simply attempting to legislate our way through differences. Unity cannot be achieved by a majority vote. When I think about what made the early church so unique in a culture that was indifferent and hostile, this passage from speaks to me:
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common.
There were certain things to which the early followers of Jesus devoted themselves; certain things they had in common: apostolic teaching, fellowship, community, and service. All of these were centered on the Risen Christ. I believe the same source that provided unity for the early followers can provide the unity we are seeking.
Unity comes from a common core of conviction that is centered on Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Gospel message is good because it points to the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Unity comes from hearing and responding to this invitation of Jesus.
But here’s the catch. This unity does not come on our terms. It is not up for debate. No amount of debate or protest can bring about unity if we cannot agree on our common core of conviction. Otherwise, unity will always be an illusion.
Additionally, the unity we desperately need comes as we submit ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and seek to love others. Again, this is made possible through the work of the Holy Spirit and not through some legislative means.
Let us strive to be people of the Wesleyan Way, firmly planted in our common core of conviction that is contained in the Scripture, expressed in our doctrine, and lived out in our discipline. God help us to experience true unity by yielding to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. And, in this, may we experience the awe of following Jesus.