Monday, April 2, 2007
The Unity of the Spirit
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love. (Ephesians 4:1-16)
This passage and the ones below prevent me from being part of any particular group that considers itself to be the true church at the expense of other Christians whose churches are less than true. I believe in the true church - one, holy, catholic and apostolic - and I believe that eventually the unity we possess will be better known by us and more apparent to the world. But I believe this unity is and will be a unity of the Spirit rather than an institutional unity. Not that I'm anti-institutional-unity or anti-institution: Key to the church's maturing spiritual unity, I believe, will be a renewal of unified citywide or metropolitan churches, with each city having its own overseeing bishop and each bishop recognizing the bishops in other cities as equals in office. Sure, primacy might be given to this or that bishop, but the first will be last and the last first, which means the bishop of Rome will recognize the bishop of Monroe or the bishop of Moscow, whether he happens to be a black baptist or charismatic (the sort of bishop I'd imagine for Monroe just from looking around right now, à la the CoGiC or someone like TD Jakes) or a white evangelical or academic ecumenist (e.g. Jim Wilson, Peter Leithart, or someone like I imagine Armand Larive was in Pullman).
All of this obviously keeps me from being Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Truly Reformed, Truly Anglican, Truly Lutheran, Truly Spirit-filled Apostolic, Truly Denominational or Truly Nondenominational. I long for unity with all of these folks, but until that longing is reciprocated in a way other than a desire for my conversion to their particular tradition, all I can do is pray and seek to cooperate with them as much as possible in light of our varying levels of impaired communion. And I trust that such cooperation will help us mutually grow up into the unity of the Spirit.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves. (Philippians 2:3)
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me. (John 17:20-23)
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