That They May be One

For years I've heard folks talk about and come up with reasons why the Church is so divided--one denomination here, another denomination there, and so on and so forth--but the amount of effort that goes into fixing the problem is disproportionately less than the amount of time we spend talking about it. In his book Becoming the Answer to Our Prayers, Shane Claiborne quotes a pastor saying, "we better get it together because Jesus is coming back, and he coming for a Bride, not a harem" (page 88). The Church is so divided, by big things and by small things, that it's hard to see how it could ever be one as Jesus prayed that it would be (John 17:11). But if we truly believe that the Church is to be the foretaste of the Kingdom of God, then it is our calling to step and to move in that direction no matter how impossible it seems or how incredibly difficult it sounds.

We are so entrenched in our divisions right now that the path is hard to see. We cannot anticipate how we will cross some of those huge bridges (the big things that divide us now) from where we are standing. All we can see in front of us is the trail-head. We can see the small things and until we've walked for a while, the big things must wait. We know it's the right path and we must start walking. We know that we're going to come across churches and communities about which we'll say, "no, we can't go there. They're too different, too weird, too evil." But we still know it's the right path. And so we must walk for we cannot know how to cross big bridges until we get to them. We cannot know how to handle our big differences until we handle a few small ones, until we actually start walking. We know we must be untied, so we walk with the courage of the martyrs toward that end.

It starts by looking to what we do agree on before we talk about what we don't agree on. It starts with a few brave people from different churches saying, "ok, we might not be able to do everything together but what can we do together?" It starts by finding just a few things that are at the heart of our faith and partnering in those things. As we do this, we may find that other churches besides those already gathered agree on these few things too, and maybe some churches only agree on a couple of these things, and some still may only agree on one. So we slowly come together in small ways, working and worshiping together. From there we can discuss and yes, even argue about the things we disagree on, but it will no longer be from opposite sides of a line but from a partnership. In fact, it's important for us to talk about the things we disagree on while we're working together because as we do this we grow together in community, not learning to agree but learning to disagree well.

As we slowly start with the small things perhaps we'll find ways to consider ourselves "one" but we'll never know if this is possible until we start walking. We'll never know if we can be one with the churches we hate (and who hate us) until we can be one with the churches we only mildly dislike. We'll never know how "liberals" and "conservatives" can be one until we catch a glimpse of what it's like for "conservatives" and "moderates" to be one. We'll never know how Calvary Chapels and Unitarian-liberal-universalists can be one until we discover how Baptists and Presbyterians can be one. It's all about creatively and courageously finding ways to be one as Christ and the Father are one. But we actually have to walk, we can't stay staring at the trail-head.

To be ok with our divisions is to underestimate the work that lies before us. We cannot do it on our own, we need each other. The Kingdom of God is bigger than any one church or denomination. We cannot arrogantly believe that we can do it on our own. The Kingdom of God is a Kingdom of interdependence and as the foretaste of that Kingdom, the Church must be interdependent.

Sure, let's argue about theology, but can we do it while we're walking? I can't carry this by myself.