Ryan Burgett, October 26, 2013
“For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” 1 Cor 12.12
Unity is a popular and important topic in the church today. It is easy to look at the church worldwide and see how different and unique the different branches and denominations are and question how unity can be found. Historically, unity was assumed to be found in doctrine, but that backfired and brought us the somewhat scattered church we see today. I propose that unity is not found in uniformity of doctrine or practice, but in (1) identity, (2) purpose, and (3) Spirit. This post will look at how we in this broad, diverse church find unity in identity.
Unity through identity is nothing new, in fact it is as old as the Bible itself. We see a negative example of this way back at the tower of Babel. A modern example is how unity is found through national identity. But the church has an identity more deep and all-encompassing than anything the world has to offer. The apostle Paul spoke of this identity in many place throughout the New Testament.
In the above verse we read, “For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” The church is broad and diverse and has many different groups and members and organizations, but the truth is that we are all part of the same body. But that does not imply uniformity, instead it implies diversity. A body can not be made up of all hands or feet or any part. To be unified as a body implies many different parts which look very different. A hand is very different from a foot or an eye or a breast. Each part of the body interacts with the world in very different ways. Imagine a nose trying to find unity in practice with a hand. Is that really going to work? Or imagine an eye trying to force its worldview on a foot. How would that work?
The members of my body are unified because they make up me. In the same way, the church finds unity in the midst of their differences through the fact that they make up one body. In Ephesians 3.14-15, Paul says, “…I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” We, the church, make up one body whose name is Christ Jesus. We won’t find unity through uniformity of doctrine or practice, but we can and we do find it through our identity as the body of Christ. And bearing the name of Christ, we can celebrate the diversity of our members while remaining unified.