f-1.03a. The Unity of the Church
Unity is God’s gift to the Church in Jesus Christ. Just as God is one God and Jesus Christ is our one Savior, so the Church is one because it belongs to its one Lord, Jesus Christ. The Church seeks to include all people and is never content to enjoy the benefits of Christian community for itself alone. There is one Church, for there is one Spirit, one hope, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5–6).
The Book of Order f-1.03a
2:1 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2make my joy complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.
We are called to be united by affirming the one Lord, Jesus Christ, as our one common relationship that draws us together. That means though we come with many divisions: Liberals and conservatives; Democrats and Republicans; Cat lovers and dog lovers — we are all united as brothers and sisters of Christ.
What this means is that we all affirm Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We all promise to live out of our trust of Christ, rather than out of our individual points of view or subjective experiences. There are people with whom we will disagree, in some cases rather passionately. But either way, we are still together as God’s beloved people.
There are some who want to cut a few corners on this affirmation. They may say hold particular doctrines as being necessary to be in Christ. This isn’t supported in scripture. Quite the opposite, salvation is by grace, but God will evaluate whether we are judgmental or compassionate; whether we are welcoming – offering the peace of Christ or if we are egotistically driven, demanding that others conform to our personal expectations.
There is only one church, though some may think otherwise. This means that the arguments, disagreements, and divisions are a part of the plan. Throughout history there have always been divisions and disagreements. In the early church there was a great deal of controversy about whether or not those who were not of the original Jewish faith could be Christian. Some felt that being a Christian meant complying with the dietary laws and other commandments from Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. Others felt that an affirmation of Jesus as Lord was all that was required.
We still see these divisions being played out in the life of the church. The goal is not for the church to be of one substance, but that the body of Christ works through these differences to discern and know the presence of God. It is impossible for anyone group to have a complete gospel. We need those who are different from ourselves in order to have all of the sides of God’s message and word. We need one another, especially in the places where we disagree, so that we may grow and prepare ourselves to meet whatever challenge comes next.
So we have unity in the church around one affirmation, we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior. It’s the one affirmation that calls us all to fellowship, to working together, and to serving Christ together. Then the challenge to us is to not let the many reasons we manage to discover for division to alienate or cut off fellowship in any part of the church. Because those who refuse to be a part of the fellowship merely remove themselves from the opportunities to learn and grow from those who know a different side to loving and serving Christ. So we believe together, in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.