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I’ve got to be honest. I’m anxious about the future of my denomination, the Reformed Church in America (RCA). When I get thinking about the many issues that are driving wedges in our denomination, and the threats I hear from this person and that person about this church or that church leaving our denomination, I tremble a little.
I’ve been quite the little trembling ball of anxiety these last few months. Certain topics tend to have that effect on me. Whenever the topic of immigration, or gay marriage, or Obama Care, or police shootings, or gun control, or women’s rights, or welfare, or the confederate flag, or Planned Parenthood, or Hilary Clinton, or Cecil the Lion comes up, my heart starts fluttering and I brace myself for a storm of divisiveness. Though it’s true in the other demographics as well, the lines between Christians get drawn firmly in the sandy concrete and the “us” is distinctly separated from the “them.” That’s when I start to vibrate with anger that people don’t listen to each other. I vibrate with frustration that fear dictates action. I vibrate with bitterness that voices don’t speak up or shut up. I vibrate with dread that things will be said that can’t be unsaid. I vibrate with confusion that everyone doesn’t see things my way.
So this little blog serves as a reminder as much for me as for anyone.
As Christians, we are part of a heritage that values unity over any other moral, ethical, traditional, or political standard. Unity has the highest value in the Christian Church compared to any other issue that threatens to distract us from the fellowship to which we are called. As Christians we are called to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Why? Because of our oneness: ONE body, ONE Spirit, ONE hope, ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, and ONE God.
This list of “The Ones” is the gold standard for the believer in Christ. We are called to unity because we are a part of one body, the body of Christ crucified and resurrected, whose purpose is to be the diverse membership of many people working in cooperation as one to fulfill the great commandment to love. We don’t accomplish this through our own efforts, but in the power of the Holy Spirit, with the hope and faith the Spirit provides, in the resurrection life given to us in the one baptism, and for the glory and honor of our one true God.
God knew we wouldn’t be able to agree on everything, so we have the list of Ones to unify us around what’s important. It’s not the only scripture that matters, but it certainly helps us get out of our own heads and step away from opinion-making, side-taking, and finger-shaking.
Our unity comes from God and is for God’s sake. It doesn’t require uniformity; it doesn’t require that we think, act, dress, sing, or look the same because it’s not about us. It’s about God. What a relief! Our differences have been anticipated, or we wouldn’t need to this list of ones.
Think about the early Christian community. A more diverse group of misfits has hardly been seen since. At the time the letter to the Ephesians was being written, Jesus-following Jews were first being introduced to Jesus-following Gentiles. Those two groups had very few areas of agreement between them and unity was crucial for the message of Christ to be preached. Unity in diversity was the ONLY way forward.
Unity in diversity is the only way forward for the RCA as well. If the Gentiles and the Jews could put aside their vastly moral, ethical, traditional, and political in nature differences for the sake of unity in Christ, why can’t we?
The biggest issue threatening to divide the RCA right now is gender and sexual diversity. In the coming year, a group of approximately 90 hand-selected people will gather together to face down our denomination’s disagreements around the topic of sexual sins. It seems to me the goal is to finalize the debate with a comprehensive statement that will stop all the tremblers like me from trembling. Because I am a little more liberal in my interpretation of the scriptures around sexuality, I was told by a classis representative that I would be eliminated as a prospective participant in the process. It’s not the first and won’t be the last time that I’ll be asked to not show up. But those who do should keep the “List of Ones” in mind. If it helped the Jewish Christians not only tolerate the Gentile Christians but also share a table with them, it can help us through this season of dissent. The way forward was the same for the early Christians as it is for us: be like Christ. Break bread together. Pass the gravy. Welcome the outsider to the table. Say a prayer. Preach the Gospel. Love. And leave the trembly topics for the Holy Spirit to work out.