“How would you bring unity in a divided church?”
That is the question I got at a session meeting. The KMGC session asked me to speak at their church retreat. They expressed their concern of various church members being divisive, which was generating some conflict. Then they turned to the rookie pastor, "Hey, why dont you speak on this topic?" Then they dropped the age old of question of how to bring unity in a diverse church. Then they gave me 30 minutes to solve the question. Sigh. See below for my rookie attempt to solve it. I just copy-pasted my handout, so there's a lot of explanation left out, but you get the jist. Would love any insight from folks who are deep in the diversity debate :) Unity and Diversity: The Church's Process of Sanctification Issue: How can you bring unity to church with diverse cultures, personalities, backgrounds, sins, socio-economic status and gifts? Simple answer: Love your neighbor as yourself, in Christ alone, by faith alone. Long answer: Just as you trust in Jesus Christ alone for your justification, sanctification, and eternal life, let us trust in Jesus Christ alone for other people’s justification, sanctification, and eternal life. Explanation: Before we talk about how to love someone, we need to talk about how to love yourself properly. Therefore, we need to revisit who we are in Christ using the Westminster Confession of Faith 14.2: "...the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace." How should we see ourselves? In Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone.
First, God does not declare us righteous because we have inherent value, righteousness, or goodness. God declares us perfectly obedient and righteous, not on the basis of our works, but on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (alone), which is all God’s grace. All we do is accept, receive, and rest on Christ’s righteousness.
Second, God does not sanctify us because we have a certain propensity, ability, or righteousness to grow into the image of God. We were all dead in our sins. However, because of the perfect work of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit indwells in us and we are able to conform to the image of Christ and put to death sin. There is always sin in us and we are far from perfection. However, we have hope and faith in our sanctification because Christ is committed to sanctify His Church, no matter how sinful and hopeless we are.
Third, God does not give us eternal life and new glorified bodies based on our level of sanctification. He will give his entire church eternal life on the basis of Christ’s work, not our work. This assurance spurs us on to grow in holiness in order to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.
How should we see our Christian brothers and sisters? In Christ alone, by faith alone, through grace alone.
First, we should see our Christian brother and sister as sinful as we are, but “declared righteous” based on Christ’s work, as we are.
Different sin, same judgment: Romans 1:28-2:5 – Although the Gentiles sinned in more perverse and visible ways, Paul believed the ‘righteous’ Jews were guilty of the same sins.
Different walk of faith, same righteousness: Philemon and Onesimus (Philemon 8-20) – Although Philemon and Onesimus were from different social classes and came to faith in different ways, they are both imputed with the same Christ’s righteousness,
Second, we should see our Christian brother and sister as imperfect and in process as we are, but sanctified based on Christ’s work and the Holy Spirit as we are.
Different levels of sanctification, Same sanctifier: Romans 14:1-4 – Although there are differences in maturity among the members, we must remember each member sanctified by the same Trinitarian God.
Different imperfections, same Goal: Philippians 3:12-17 – Although we all have different struggles in sin, we must remember we all have not reached perfection and strive towards it.
Third, we should see our Christian brothers and sister as headed to glory with us, therefore, we should prepare in holiness for our Bridegroom with them.
Different peoples, same place: Revelation 7:9-17 – Although we come from different backgrounds and have numerous conflicts, we will all sing with one voice before our God covered with the same blood of Christ.
Different gifts, but the same Lord and the same Body: Ephesians 4:15-16 – Although we have different gifts and propensities, we all want to please the same Bridegroom. Furthermore, there are not 'multiple' brides, but one Bride the Church. We need each other grow because we are in the same Body.