The Messiness of Unity

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents…” – Philippians 1:27-28

During my years of playing basketball I’ve had the fortune of playing on some excellent teams. Like all team sports, basketball taught me the power of unity. Five players on the court each having different roles but a single goal. Sometimes teams are built around a single superstar who carries the rest of the team but the best teams are balanced and players do the little things to help the team win, often sacrificing their own stats for the sake of the win.

As a church God cares very much about unity. In his letter to the believers at Philippi, he spoke of standing firm in one spirit, with one mind. When he wrote to the church at Ephesus, he again invoked the idea of oneness – one body, one spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all…(Ephesians 4:4-6).

We are in a situation where our society is being stretched and in some places, torn apart. As citizens we are part of our society and as Christians we also are called to be distinct from our society. Part of that distinction is how we handle our differences. Navigating our earthly citizenship and our heavenly citizenship is seldom clear and never easy. Even within the church family there will be different opinions on how racism is manifested in our society today and what role we should play, if any, to fight against it. During a discussion between Southern Baptist Conference denominational leaders and five black pastors within the SBC, one of the black pastors K. Marshall Williams, the senior pastor of Nazarene Baptist Church of Philadelphia, suggested during the conversation that America might not be in the situation it's in today when it comes to racial issues had the Church done more to speak out against racism and slavery.

Our voice does matter. Speaking out is important. We are in a historical moment when the church can say “we hear the pain of our black brothers and sisters and we stand with them. Racism must stop.” There aren’t going to be a lot of voices advocating for racism but there will be plenty of voices that have opinions on its root causes, where it exists and what should be done about it. No doubt, differences will surface and this is exactly where our faith can make all the difference in the world.

When the world says shame, slander, and cancel those who see things from a different point of view, we must remember that Jesus would not. Instead may I suggest you have a conversation. Listen to what others are saying. Try to refrain from using labels like liberal or conservative. As much as possible, speak about specifics instead of generalities. The Holy Spirit cares about the manner in which we seek change, not just the change itself.

At the end of the day, our faith must inform our views and our actions. God’s word is both a lamp that illuminates and a light that guides us along the paths of righteousness. We must take racism and justice issues seriously and also unity within the church family. Pursuing both can be messy, awkward, and uncomfortable. We must hold that the gospel transforms a person’s heart and that same gospel opens our eyes to love others who are different than us as we love ourselves.  

5 Comments


Amy - June 18th, 2020 at 11:02pm

Amen! Thank you PJ for sharing!

Jacklyn Tan - June 19th, 2020 at 2:01am

Yes! Good word Joe. The gospel of Jesus Christ, and the grace and empowerment that comes with our new family identity, gives us new eyes, new lens to our "neighbor" who might be culturally, socioeconomically, racially, etc different from us with eyes of compassion and solidarity in their suffering. I truly believe and I'm excited to see, how the church can lead the world in standing up against injustice bc it offers 3 unique skills/power that the world does not have: forgiveness, reconciliation, meekness-vulnerability bc we have the grace/power of Jesus undergirding all that we do.

Nick Andres - June 19th, 2020 at 10:54am

Thanks for excellent word PJ! Loved It!

Rob Unoki - June 21st, 2020 at 11:44am

Thank you PJ! Practical word for us to use everyday :)

Tracy Unoki - June 21st, 2020 at 11:51am

Thank you PJ. It’s been very helpful to read your words especially the part where you encourage us to refrain from using labels like left or right, liberal or conservative. Instead try to focus on specifics. I feel this approach will guard us from division that is already so prevalent.