Tuesday Re-mix –
You may be aware that my ministry has an on-going relationship with churches in South Africa, where our teams go and teach unity principles. Do you see the irony in that? The irony is that anyone from the American church would be teaching South Africans about unity. There are a great many things the American church has done well…but unity is not one of them. In fact, our secular culture of democracy and Roberts Rules of Order, etc. have actually worked against us in that regard. In matters of true Biblical unity, the church in America just does not demonstrate much understanding. Now, if you want to talk about religious liberties and how the church and the government relate to each other in light of those liberties, we definitely have some answers. Our 200 years of our cultural experiment in that area have put us way ahead of the rest of the world. But in the area of unity, maybe not so much.
In a similar way, the South African culture has actually helped that church understand some things about unity. A collection of many different tribes and people groups, South Africa literally had its unity hand forced by the breaking down of Apartheid and the building of a society in a post-Apartheid season. It has been difficult and it has been painful. I suspect most South Africans would say they still have a ways to go. But they have been doing the hard work which unity in their country requires and they understand that it does not come cheaply. Of all the lessons they have learned about unity, I am most impressed with that one. Unity does not come cheaply and it requires a great deal of hard work in order to preserve it. They get that. I am not sure we do.
You see, if the concept of unity conjures up lots of warm fuzzy feelings for you, if it makes you think about being comfortable and being able to sit back in a big easy chair and just soak in all the love, then you don’t really understand unity. It is about relationships and all the complexities that go along with them. Like a marriage, it is not something that just happens naturally. Preserving the unity of the Spirit takes work and lots of it. It takes constant focus, genuine humility, confession of sin, and a willingness to place relationships ahead of many other right things.
My experience with the church in South Africa is that it is well aware of how much work is involved with unity and that it is willing to do that work. I see it in the faces of the church leaders and in the faces of the congregations as well. There is very much a “just tell us what to do and we will do it” attitude. It is both refreshing and convicting.
It is refreshing because it is the picture of what the New Testament church is supposed to be: both hearers and doers of the word. It is convicting because it reminds me that we in the American church, while being truly blessed as hearers of the Word, are a long, long way from establishing our reputations as real doers of the Word. Because doing what the Word tells us to do about relationships with each other is a lot of work. Unity, after all is said and done, is not for wimps.
© Blake Coffee