This week we asked our bloggers what they wish churches talked about more.
More than any other topic, I wish churches would talk more about unity and separation – and the biblical understanding of these concepts.
We live in a time where fragmentation is the norm. Relationships are breaking apart, institutions fall apart and our institutions upholding relationships are being worn down slowly but surely.
I am not sure if this is unique to our time. It’s always tempting to say that our experience is somehow more unique or more intense than that of another age. Regardless of whether or not the dissolution of our social bonds is increasing in frequency, or if this is the normal rate of dissolution throughout history, we live in a time where separation in the midst of disagreement is expected. It’s become the norm.
I wish churches named the separation so rampant in our society for the evidence of sin that it is. Even if a separation is needed, the very fact that it has become necessary is a product of our sin nature. Sin itself is defined by separation – the separation of creation from the presence of the God who creates. Whenever one sees separation, dissolution or social fragmentation, one is seeing sin running its course.
Yet, somehow, our churches here in America seem incredibly comfortable with separation. What is needed, in this time, is a positive construction of unity. We need a positive, well-articulated, theologically constructed vision of Christian unity in order for the church to be able to respond to the rampant separation prevalent throughout American society.
NT Wright gave the church a gift in his recent study on the apostle Paul. Wright hones in on the emphasis Paul places on Christian unity. Knowing that the early church was called to the urgent mission of spreading the news of Jesus’ resurrection, Paul knew the church had to reflect the unity of God through its own unity.
I look forward to the next few years when Wright’s book becomes more easily distilled and influences the conversation around these subjects. And, I hope more churches talk about this type of unity. Too often, the concept of Christian unity is something to be argued around, something to be rationalized out of the picture. It is a hoop to be jumped through as we pursue our agendas of separation amidst disagreement.
Like the rest of the society around us, we push the church towards separation when we disagree. In so doing, however, we lose our ability to reflect the unified nature of the triune God. I pray that we begin taking this issue as seriously as it is.
Jonathan Saur is a candidate for ministry in Los Ranchos Presbytery. He lives in San Juan Capistrano, California.