We (Christians) all like to talk about things like unity, community, the body of Christ, family in Christ, the global Church, and on and on. In fact, we talk about it so much that you’d think we’d tell you how to do any of that.
Because here’s the truth- we’re not so good at being unified these days. We spend a lot of time trying to prove that we’re not like “those” Christians or criticizing our brothers and sisters in Christ that seem less committed and not as perfect as us in our own eyes. I’d go so far as to say that unity isn’t a priority at all in the modern church. Spiritual denominations and physical borders separate us from each other. Those that have begun to see this as an actual problem stand on street corners and shout at us to get our act together, but even they aren’t really doing anything to help the problem or find the solution. We ask each other to change, saying “if you would just have our worldview and our customs, we could totally get along with you!”
Listen up brothers and sisters- Unity has a price. If we want to truly become one community, we have to have a funeral before we have a wedding.
Think about it this way: When two people get married, they don’t just squish together two individuals. Rather, two people give up their individual selves and become one body together. The same has to happen for us to become one body as a Church. While there are some truths that we should never compromise on and some people who aren’t truly following God that we should rebuke, we are called to sacrifice our comforts and preferences to join with the global body of believers. For example, you may love modern music, but worshipping with a different group of people may require you to learn some old hymns or even music in a different language.
As you all know, I recently spent time in El Salvador working with a Christian organization in Cuidad Delgado (part of San Salvador). While this organization was doing many wonderful things in the community, no organization is perfect and I saw some harmful ideas about what it means to be a Christian practiced in their ministry. Instead of accepting their culture and conforming to their worship practices, many of the missionaries expected the community to become more american. They saw the american christian worldview and customs as the only correct way to know and worship God. Yet God is not the God of America. America does not matter much to God. People matter to God, not national boundary lines. The way we worship isn’t the “right way,” it’s simply our way. When we go into other cultures to do ministry, we need to meet them where they are, not as a lesser people but as a unique and therefore different people.
Unity requires sacrifice. It requires us to give up our comfort zone.
So let’s put this into practice: When you meet other christians with different experiences remember to listen to them, accept them, and learn from them. Stop expecting to people to agree with you all the time, but rather listen to their perspectives to grow your own worldview. Stop asking people to change to join your church or social group, instead see diversity as an asset rather than a risk. Stop worrying about doing things the way they’ve always been done, because those new ideas and new perspectives and new ways of life could be better than your old traditions.
Stay tuned for how to start doing this on an individual level next post.
Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.- Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG)
On my personal stance on prayer: this has been on my mind.
Weeks ago when visiting my paternal grandma in North Carolina,
she went on a usual short tirade about how I should “pray” to Buddha because I
have to hope and that prayer helps.
And she did the same thing last year and on the phone and her
habit is the same. Tell me to pray, as if it is a mandatory medicine.
Although I believe in prayer and an afterlife and don’t mind being
asked to join prayer circles with Christian friends, I was really uncomfortable with the way she
shoehorned and pushed prayer and that I must “pray for [my late father] in
Heaven”. And whether or not I’m religious, I get really really uncomfortable
when someone really pushes religious cues onto me to the point where I can tell they wouldn’t respect my refusal. So even if I did believe in prayer, my
grandmother’s pushiness about it made me decide to refuse because I wouldn’t
pray under false pretenses when I know she’s just pushing my personal
To summarize, even though I do retain some traditional beliefs in
faith, I have to know that I am respected by religious friends/family as if I
am 100% atheist, without the bull “you’re missing out if you’re not believing
in God or praying” trash.
So I wasn’t comfortable. She told me that my late father was out
there in the afterlife. So for the umpteenth time, I had to explain to grandma
that I don’t have to pray if I’m not religious that “But what if I don’t
believe in an afterlife?” (Note again: I do, but I was irritated that she was
pushing it). But she kept going on about “hope” and that my father is in the
afterlife, incredulous that I won’t pray.
And that’s when, to my pleasure, I overheard sprouts of Vietnamese
and English of my aunts arguing with grandmother in the kitchen that “That’s what she believes
and she’s not going to change her mind about it.” And as my grandmother was
protesting that I need to pray, my aunts replied that “You don’t just ask people to do something they don’t believe in.”
there is so much good news out there. like if y'all would read passed those most popular bible verses, there is literally a whole book filled with equally important scripture out there. take your baby steps in your relationship with Christ, but don’t be afraid to take that leap of faith as you progress and grow. He calls us out beyond the shore and into the waves. dive deeper. grow stronger. i promise you that you won’t be disappointed in what you find.
You are a child of God- 1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
John 1:12 Yet to all who did receive Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God—
For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as
many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is
neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male
and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
You are a new creation- 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
You are in Him- 1 John 2:4 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
Galatians 2:20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but
Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by
faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
You are God’s special possession- 1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light.
Ephesians 1:4-5 For He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will—
Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
YOU were created in God’s image-
Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
You are God’s righteousness- 2 Corinthians 5:21 God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. You are a conqueror- Romans 8:35/37 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.
1 John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
You are God’s temple- 1 Corinthians 3:16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?
2 Corinthians 6:16
For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. You are not condemned-
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
The Lord redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in him will be condemned.
You are light- Ephesians 5:8-9 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)
Matthew 5:14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.
You are not forgotten- Isaiah 49:16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.
Deuteronomy 28:13 And the Lord will make you the head and not the tail; you shall be above only, and not be beneath, if you heed the commandments of the Lord your God, which I command you today, and are careful to observe them.