“… church unity isn’t something we can achieve through clever negotiations, the force of authority, or even the patience of waiting our enemies out. There’s only one way to Christian unity: we embody the grace and truth of Christ’s glory when we love one another as God has already loved us.”
Us versus them.
These are the words that come to mind as I read the first sentence in this quotation. In each of these cases, it seems more a matter of conquest than community. Sadly, I believe that fits right in line with most of my experience of the church. Denominations at war over doctrinal hair splitting who refuse any peace that is not in accord with their specific terms. We are very willing to help someone become like us, but all too often we refuse to see Christ in them when they will not share our personal convictions. After all, they are quite obviously in the wrong. But even where they are wrong, a lesson I’ve learned through the years is that change of heart comes from within. It is a miracle that happens as a result of God’s work in an environment of grace and truth.
This brings me to the second part of this chapter that resonated with me. In the context of community, we are exposed to a person in their entirety, both the good and the bad. As the author points out, sometimes we are tempted to think we know exactly what’s needed to fix them. I agree it is a dangerous temptation, and one I am very prone to act on. Unfortunately, my perception is not nearly as keen as I believe it to be. It can cause a lot of trouble in relationships leading to both resentment and undue pride. So how should we handle these situations?
I loved the image provided by gardening. A comparison of broken people as being more akin to sick plants. We can’t fix sick plants, but in tending to them and the environment they live in, we can help them to heal. I would add that in the garden, our community, we too are plants. Tending to the community is comprised of things that make up an environment of grace and truth. A place where we love our neighbor as ourselves. A place where God’s hand can bring about healing and growth. Growth that is the miracle and mystery of God’s hand among us.
So maybe it is time we remember that we are part of God’s garden. A garden filled with many and diverse creations. We have the entire earth in all its abundance to give us a small testimony to the diversity of God’s garden. Tending to His community with love. Offering grace and forgiveness. Leaving room to disagree. Serving one another. All so God can work his miracle in our lives and in our midst. All so we can experience the Gospel and find common ground in Christ, our Savior.