Unity within the body of Christ is fragile in the best of times. The tensions of 2020 have taken their toll on that unity in ways I have not personally experienced before. I’ve heard a few Christians lately talk about keeping the main thing the main thing. In the growing number of conversations (more like confrontations) surrounding controversial hot-buttons, I am feeling the need to know for certain what the main thing even is. The phrase reminds me of something oft-quoted by my husband—
In essentials unity,German Lutheran theologian, Rupertus Meldenius
in non-essentials liberty,
in all things charity.“
To keep the main thing the main thing, I have to know what is essential as a Christ-one. What are the indispensable elements without which we cannot function as the body of Christ? What are those things that bind every follower of Jesus to every other follower of Jesus? Do you know? Do you know for certain? Until you and I know, we cannot begin to understand what is non-essential— what falls into the sphere that would call for liberty.
You’re about to read my list-in-progress. This will be potentially the most controversial part of this post. But we have to start here or we’re going to keep getting stuck and we’re going to remain divided.
What is essential? What is the main thing?
1. Christ-ones are to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength (Duet. 6:5; Duet. 10:12; Mark 12:30).
2. We are to do for others what we wish they would do for us (Matt. 7:12).
3. We are to consider others as better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-8).
4. We are to love others as we are loved by Jesus (John 13:34).
5. We are to be witnesses for Jesus to the ends of the earth (Isaiah 52:6-8; Acts 1:6-8).
These are commands. They apply to all who call Jesus Lord. Our demographic is the whole of humanity— friend, and enemy alike (Matt. 5:43-48). A person should not be able to tell whether someone is my friend or enemy based on the way I love them. A person should be able to see Christians from a mile away because of how we love one another within the body. After all, Christ-ones are bound together, each of us expected to make our unique, indispensable contribution to the health of the body (1 Cor. 12:12-26).
I would venture to say that most of us are feeling the crippling effects of disunity within the body of Christ. I know the world sees it– finding us pitted against one another just like they are. So what do we do about this? How do you and I fight to restore and then protect unity in the body?
If I have even one relationship that is suffering because of a difference of opinion concerning politics or race or any other hot-topic, I know I have a job to do. First I MUST seek the counsel of the most high God. Then I have to make the call and make the date to meet and talk and LISTEN. I must pursue unity so far as I am able (Rom. 12:18). I must love even and especially if differences remain between us. I must not let those differences, however passionately held, drive a wedge between me and my brother or sister. I must pursue unity and be willing to maintain it (Ephesians 4:2-4). This will cost me time and perhaps a smidge of dignity. It will require the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit. It’s worth it. It’s critical. And it’s at the heart of what deeply matters to our Lord (John 17:9-23).
How wonderful, how beautiful,
when brothers and sisters get along!
It’s like costly anointing oil
flowing down head and beard,
Flowing down Aaron’s beard,
flowing down the collar of his priestly robes.
It’s like the dew on Mount Hermon
flowing down the slopes of Zion.
Yes, that’s where God commands the blessing,
ordains eternal life.
Psalm 133: 1-3 (The Message)