I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
One of the most powerful displays of the work of Christ, for the world to see, is the unity of the church. This unity has been purchased by the blood of Christ (Ephesians 2:13). And we are told that through the church, “the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers, and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10).
The church of Christ is not any old gathering of people. It’s worthy and beauty are seen by the price that was paid by Christ. Every background, every ethnicity, every story--is now made ONE by Christ and in Christ. In the context of Ephesians, Paul wrote to let the Gentiles (any person not a Jew) know that this Gospel was for them too, not just the Jews. This holds true today—every one of us, with different languages, different customs, different color of skin—the Gospel is for every single body. As believers of Christ, we are united by this Gospel and belong to the same family of God because of this Gospel.
Our oneness in Christ does not negate our differences, rather we celebrate our differences as they are woven together into a God-glorifying tapestry of Christian unity. And while those individual unique attributes which we celebrate - and that make us different from one another - become subservient to our primary identity in Christ, they are still part of our identity, which now has its intended positionality [in Christ] -- each one a unique manifestation of the Imago Dei. Our differences show how the power of Christ is able to bring people from all nations, tribes and tongues together.
At the same time, being in Christ compels us to be renewing our minds by the Spirit of God so that when we encounter differences that reveal that we are not looking through the lens of the Spirit of God, we humbly submit to the Word of God.
Because, though we are ONE, we are learning to become ONE. Just as in the covenant of marriage, where God calls us to radical oneness, the reality is that we are learning to become ONE through the day to day work of laying down our pride to serve one another. Through the ways we ask for forgiveness when we hurt one another by our words and action. Through the ways we are learning more about each other and learning to consider each other more than ourselves and look out for the interest of others (Philippians 2:4-5). Through these actions, we are learning to lean into the main identity of our covenant: oneness. When we do things that drift away from that oneness, repenting helps us move towards that identity.
In the same way, the body of Christ is ONE in Christ AND we are learning how to become ONE in the ways we love one another and serve one another. When we sin against one another, we repent. When we see a brother or sister hurt, we come along side of them. We don’t question why they hurt; rather, we try to understand why they hurt. We desire to know how we can carry their burden (Galatians 6:2). We learn to mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (Romans 12:15). We learn to share our lives with one another—all because of the Spirit of God within us that unites us. So when we recognize that we are more concerned about the comfort of our own individuality, we repent and draw towards the oneness we are called to.
Why is this important to understand, especially in this moment?
In the context of the rising tide of racial injustices to which the church, this country and the entire world bear witness, and within the larger societal context of the underlying racial inequities that stem from the earliest days of our country, there is a lot of divisiveness within the church with becoming ONE on these issues and has caused many to hurt within the body of Christ. This is not new in the history of the world and it is not new to the church of Christ – the new testament church was anything but unified in their diversity for the Glory of God. (Read 1 Corinthians)
There are many places where the Word is clear on God’s heart towards injustice. Here are a couple of passages:
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9)
For I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. (Isaiah 61:8)
“But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.” (James 2:9)
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. (Matthew 23:23)
What do we see? God hates all injustice which means God hates racial injustice. God has given us the command to not tolerate injustice but to fight for the rights of the oppressed. The Gospel compels us to speak to these things—not just in the world but in the body of Christ.
While we in the body may have differing views and opinions, we must be careful to not excuse or explain away the easy avoidance of racial injustice due to discomfort, lack of proximity, or ignorance as merely matters of difference and our Christian liberties at work (Galatians 5:1). Because as our oneness in Christ moves us towards one another and we become more aware of the different experiences and lived realities that exist within the body, we should submit our response to the Word of God and the heart of God, not our own understanding (Prov 3:5). We should strive to respond more as He would and less as we are inclined to. As John the baptizer states, “He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:30).
One of the things that we are called to do because of our oneness is “carry each other’s burdens, so as to fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). We don’t get to choose which burdens we bear for one another. And one of those burdens is the burden of racism and the reality that black people face in this country. We ALL have to cry out for this injustice as one. Why? Because there is no place in the body of Christ to remain in ignorance concerning the realities that greatly affect another image bearer. If my reality says your reality is not a big deal, we must repent. If I am more concerned about staying in my comfort because I don’t fully grasp your reality, we must repent. We are called to become ONE---in the conviction of Christ AND the conviction of what hurts each other.
Sisters, I truly love God’s church and desire unity more than ever. I see how much Satan hates God’s church and desires to divide us—one by one. Issue by issue. We must side with Christ. Siding with Christ isn’t “safe.” It isn’t comfortable. It calls us out of our comfort and our selves to ask the hard questions. It calls us to look within our own hearts and see our own sins and repent. It calls us to let go of allegiances that make us feel safe. It calls us to love radically. It calls us to speak out against what is evil, regardless of politics. It calls us to have the hard and messy conversations with truth and grace. It calls us to truly listen to understand before we speak or defend our opinion.
May we “be eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) and may the display of the unity of the church show the world that Christ is better.
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
Ephesians (the whole book)
Questions to Reflect on: