The recent focus on racism has prompted many church leaders to release statements advocating social justice and equality. I believe that is the right thing to do. As ever, the Bible is timelessly relevant and practical in the affairs of mankind. John, in Revelation, gives us a glimpse of worship in heaven as he writes: “…I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” [Revelation 7:9]. If this is the heaven Christians are aspiring to reach, wouldn’t it be great if the Church could model to the world what a unified multiracial community operating in harmony ought to look like?
There is no doubt that Jesus intends a diverse Church to model unity to the world. In His great High Priestly prayer before His Passion, He prays that we, His followers, may be one just as He and the Father are one [John 17:1-15]. That is our ideal in the Church – to model the oneness between the Father and the Son in the Body of Christ. Besides, before He ascended into Heaven, Jesus gave His disciples and by extension us, the command to “make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19]. The word translated “nations” is ethnos which means “ethnic groups”. Therefore, it makes sense that every ethnic group will be represented in heaven. If we are praying for God’s will in heaven to be done on earth, are we actively pursuing it in the Church?
Thankfully, God didn’t leave us to figure out how to implement His ideal for the Church. Instead, He gave us a blueprint and described our roles in bringing about His ideal. In the letter to the Ephesians, Paul explains that anyone who accepts salvation through Jesus Christ becomes an heir with Him and a partaker in His promise. Additionally, that person also becomes a member of the Body of Christ – the Church. Paul explains that there is one body…one Spirit…one hope…one Lord…one faith…one baptism…one God [Ephesians 4:1-6]. In other words, there is no place for anything or anyone that sows division in the Church [Romans 12:4-6, 1 Corinthians 12:12-27].
This is a rebuke to the divisions we have created in the Body of Christ. There isn’t a Catholic and Protestant Body, a black and a white Body, a Western and an Eastern Body, a male and female Body or a rich and poor Body. There is one diverse Body with members from all nations, classes and socio-economic backgrounds. Furthermore, when Jesus went back to heaven, He gave each of us gifts to build up the Church [Ephesians 4:8-14]. Therefore, each of us will give account for how we used our gifts [Matthew 25:14-30] to build up the Church as Jesus intended. So, how are you building up the Body? Are you fostering unity in line with God’s ideal or stirring up divisions? There is no middle ground.
There is no better example of how a body with diverse members operates as one than the human body. In a healthy body, each part serves the whole and each part is vital to ensure the proper working of the body. The whole body suffers when this isn’t the case. For instance, ever wondered if your eyelashes didn’t do their job or if you didn’t have fingernails? We can’t imagine parts of our body fighting each other or discriminating against one another. That would be rightly considered unnatural. Therefore, if Jesus calls us His Body, can you imagine how He must feel about tribalism, discrimination, in-fighting, apathy, bigotry, self-sufficiency, etc. in His Church? Interestingly, when a part of the body doesn’t follow the instructions from the brain, that part of the body is considered defective. I wonder, are we effective or defective parts of the Body of Christ? What do our actions say about us?
We can examine ourselves by reflecting on how we relate to other members of the Body of Christ. For instance, do you see other members of your church as vital to you as a Christian? Do you see members of other fellowships or denominations as vital to you? Do we let our politics, race, geography, socio-economic status, etc., create divisions in the Church? Do we isolate ourselves from other brothers and sisters in the Church because we don’t agree with them on everything? Every follower of Jesus Christ has the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit [Acts 2:38]. Therefore, God tells us we must make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace [Ephesians 4:3]. I wonder, is this our primary objective in our churches?
In the current climate, it would be wonderful to point to Christians as an example of unity in diversity. Unfortunately, this isn’t usually possible. As such, we need to ask ourselves whose agenda we are championing in the Church. Are we championing an agenda that brings unity or division? Are we building up the Body or tearing it down? I believe that if we are going to make every effort to build up the Body and preserve unity in the Church, we must actively pursue meaningful relationships with other believers girded by humility, gentleness, patience and love [Ephesians 4:2]. Seeing each other as God sees us – equally saved by the grace of God.
I haven’t always sought God’s ideal. But as I understand more how God intends the Church to function, I see that I am self-harming if I work against unity in the Church and I will have to answer to Jesus, the Head of the Church, for my actions. Therefore, I must repent and align myself with God’s agenda. I invite you to do the same if you are working at cross-purposes with God’s agenda.