In theory, we all desire unity in the Church. We talk about reconciling our differences and joining forces. But often, we actually mean that other Christians need to appreciate (and probably adopt) our gifts, passions and expressions of faith. We’re convinced that our convictions are correct, and we pick apart those who may care about different things.
But unity doesn’t just look like conformity.
We all have blind spots. We easily see faults in someone else or other groups, but then struggle to see limitations in ourselves. But unless we learn to see our own faults, we can’t appreciate how God gifts other Christians. And until then, we can’t have true unity.
Based on God’s gifts to you, and on your experience and personality, you probably fit more naturally in one of three categories: 1) Maybe God has softened your heart with compassion for the broken, weak and abused; 2) Or He has gifted you with great courage to stand with truth; 3) Or He has commissioned you with particular zeal and effectiveness to make disciples in all the nations.
None of us are equally strong in each area. We can’t be. But we do need to appreciate that God doesn’t work the same way in and through every person.
God aims to bring us together in local churches with believers who confess different sins, who endure different temptations. And He blesses us with diverse spiritual gifts, with various passions and strengths and dreams so we can love the world together with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We can’t afford to point fingers at each other within the Church, not while the world desperately needs our helping hands. As ambassadors of Christ, we know how to negotiate a truce between the world and the Creator—but first, we need to make a truce with one another.
Let’s start small. Can you love a fellow Christian who sins differently than you do? That shouldn’t be hard. You know you fall short too (Romans 3:23).
Now let’s get specific. If you live in an affluent area where everyone seems to have a personal trainer, do you regularly spend time with Christians outside your neighborhood who are tempted by laziness and gluttony? Or, if you live in a middle-class community, can you identify close friends who confess their greed and arrogance?
When we sin in the same ways as all our friends, we likely exhibit blind spots in exactly the areas God aims to shine the light of His holiness. Only when others help expose our blind spots through their different personalities, experiences and spiritual giftings can we clearly see the kindness of God to forgive us our sins.
Our friends tempted to laziness and gluttony remind us that health and work are gifts from God more than rewards for self-righteousness. And our friends confessing greed and arrogance remind us that grace extends even to those who seem like they have everything they need in this life.
The good news of Jesus Christ unites us Christians as family, even when we seem to have nothing else in common except our humanity. And the Gospel creates an alternate community that is courageous, compassionate and commissioned and reminds us how much we need each other.
Collin is the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and author of Blind Spots: Becoming a Courageous, Compassionate and Commissioned Church.