June 30, 2014

Substance [REPOST]

It's Throwback Thursday ... on a Monday!

Yeah, I'm exhausted from this weekend and today is my daughter's birthday, so I'm going to re-post something I wrote back in May of 2011 instead of trying to write something new in a time crunch. With some edits, of course; I can't resist improving my work every time I look at it again, so feel free to try and spot the improvements. New post again Thursday or Friday this week. Enjoy!


"If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." [The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 2:1-4]
The church in the West has a fragmented, worn look about it these days. We find ourselves all over the spectrum on every conceivable issue, and while that's to be expected, it seems that every day another scandal finds its way into the media about some Christian getting angry at some other Christian over some theological or doctrinal or political or practical issue that they don't quite agree on. Like oil and water, members of what are supposed to be the body of Christ just can't seem to mix.

And it begs the question, whatever happened to Jesus' call for unity?

In John 17, Jesus prays that his followers would be, above all, united together as Jesus is united with the Father. The early church had a word for this likeness: homoousios, meaning of the same substance.

I dare you to try and weave that one into conversation today.

God the Father and Jesus are of the same stuff; if you see one, you see the other. But as you read through the Bible, sometimes it feels like God the Father (especially in the Old Testament) and God the Son (Jesus, in the New Testament) aren't really that related; one burns Sodom and Gomorra, the other heals beggars and lepers. But when you look more closely, you start to see that God the Father really is generous, loving, and actually likes his creation, and that Jesus sometimes gets upset and turns over tables. The more you read, the more you see that they are made of the same stuff:

God the Father and God the Son are both servants.

God began the restoration of His world by rescuing Israel from slavery, something none of the other religions of the day would claim. Jesus, over and over again, healed people physically, emotionally, socially, and spiritually everywhere He went. It makes me think that unity in our body, as diverse as we are, as seemingly different as we are in our theology, in our expression, in our worship, means that we need to all be of the same character, of the same stuff.


We need to be united because we take on the character of God, and the best way to do that is to love each other. And the best way to love each other is not at first a head thing, and not even at first a heart thing, but is at first an action thing: to serve. Serving others is at the very core of God's character, and is thus at the very heart of what it means to be a united body.

That is why we are called the Body of Christ.

I've never seen people who serve together angry at one another for very long. When we serve others with others, we can put our differences aside because it's no longer about our own agendas, preferences, or opinions; it's about following The One who invited us with Him on a mission of restoration. When our self-obsession dies and we give ourselves to the mission, our obsession with analyzing and judging the differences between ourselves and others will start to dissipate. It always seems that where disunity is found, people are too focused on loving themselves instead of others.

Disunity, at its heart, is about selfishness.

Unity, at its heart, is selfless and humble.

And so may we be a people of one substance, of one character, of one mission, in one Church.

Of one God.
"The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.'" [Jesus, in Matthew 28:16-20]

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