“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!”
– Psalm 133:1 (NASB)
For most professing Christians in America, the religion we practice is such a relatively comfortable and nonthreatening experience that we often are oblivious to these two realities: 1) Christians exist outside our geographic boundaries, and 2) the experience of those believers is not as safe or protected as ours.
Sunday mornings have become so rote and quotidian to us American Christians that we assume such is the case for believers everywhere. The irony, however, is that for many Christians in America, everywhere is defined primarily by our personal ecclesial footprint. That is, the silo, if you will, that is our local church experience (if we belong to a local church at all).
The New Testament describes believers in Christ as a body.
This metaphor is first used by the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 12:12-13, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”
The noun “body”, sōma in the Greek, denotes a number, regardless of size, of individuals who are closely united into one society, or family, as it were. We see this oneness exemplified in the early church in such texts as Acts 4:32a, “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul.” The oneness that is spoken of in the book of Acts is not man-induced or man-centered, but is the supernatural fruit of God’s monergistic work of spiritual regeneration in the hearts of His elect (Jn. 1:12-13).
But that was the early church.
Where is that oneness to be found, if at all, in the soma of Christ today?
“Satan always hates Christian fellowship; it is his policy to keep Christians apart. Anything which can divide saints from one another he delights in. He attaches far more importance to godly intercourse than we do. Since union is strength, he does his best to promote separation.” – C.H. Spurgeon
Survey the landscape of the evangelical church in America today, and one would be hard-pressed to find any empirical evidence that we are, in fact, unified. Yes, by definition, believers are a “body” by virtue of what Christ’s propitiatory work accomplished on the cross (Eph. 2:14-15). That much is an immutable fact (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27).
Nevertheless, the question remains: are we unified in His body? One could argue, perhaps without much difficulty, that we are not.
Socio-political schisms continue to foster an ever-widening chasm that is dividing the body of Christ along ethnic, ideological, and yes, theological lines. Conversely, ongoing debates over the role of women in the church are partitioning believers across various denominations and credal persuasions. It’s as if the words Jesus prayed in Jn. 7:21a “…that they may all be one…” were never uttered at all.
I need not remind you that the words ‘they’ and ‘all’ are referring to every individual who, by faith, has been adopted into the body of Christ and that without regard to any aesthetic or temporal qualifier such as ethnicity, sex, cultural background or socio-political ideology or philosophy.
“There is but one God, and they that serve Him should be one. There is nothing that would render the true religion more lovely, or make more proselytes to it, than to see the professors of it tied together with the heart-strings of love.” – Thomas Watson
Let us heed the words of both Spurgeon and Watson.
None of us is a body of one.
It is one thing for believers in Christ to view themselves as a body in terms of orthodoxy, yet quite another in terms of orthopraxy. To put it differently, if we who profess to belong to Christ’s body are not loving one another in ways that serve to unify His body, of what good is it to belong – or claim to belong – to His body at all (1 Jn. 3:18)?
This unity of which I am speaking is of such importance to Christ, that the same sense of oneness He shares eternally with His Father is what He desires for us, His body, the church (Jn. 17:20-22). That you and I belong to Christ and not to ourselves (1 Cor. 6:19-20), likewise means that we belong to those who are of Christ’s body and not to ourselves (Gal. 5:13).
How it must grieve the heart of God to see those for whom His Son died to rescue from a world that is perishing, behaving toward one another in ways that make us indistinguishable from a world that is perishing (1 Cor. 1:18; 1 Jn. 2:17).
Humbly in Christ,