Called to be Radically Unified

By Tom Burns, Academic Dean

(Editor’s Note: In the spirit of love and in observance of Black History Month, we are focusing on unity throughout the month of February. This article is the first installment of a four-part series written by WC Academic Dean, Tom Burns. Stay tuned to the school’s website and FacebookInstagram, and Twitter accounts this month to join us in celebrating unity here at WC.)

A scan of a newsfeed or glance at today’s headlines quickly reveals one of our society’s most profound issues: division. It seems that everywhere we turn, there is increasing hostility and disunion. We as a nation are increasingly polarized by our gender, race, sexual orientation, political views, socio-economic status, and religious convictions. Sadly, the Church is not immune to society’s divisive, even combative influence.

At various times the Lord reveals unique things to us from the Scriptures.  Not unique in that no one has ever seen them, but unique in that they are particularly timely and pressing given the concerns or dynamics of the present.  It seems that everywhere I look in the Scriptures I am seeing God’s concern that His people be united.  We talk about unity a great deal, but if we’re (I’m!) being honest, by unity I usually mean that others should simply acknowledge that they are wrong when we disagree, see things my way, and then be quiet from there, doing what I want them to do.  But the unique message about unity that I’m seeing everywhere in the New Testament is, of course, counter to that sort of arrogance that we typically draw upon.

In Mark 3, when Jesus was accused of being possessed of the Devil, he utters the famous phrase that “a house divided against itself cannot stand.” It would seem that a primary objective for Satan would be the division of God’s people.  If God’s people are divided, the house is weakened.  It’s great to take comfort in knowing that while things may seem bleak, the Church will never ultimately be overcome, no matter how divided we may seem (Matthew 16:13-20).  But that being said, division is real, it weakens the body, and it most certainly can make the good news of the Gospel seem bitter to those that experience the division of our sinful flesh rather than the unity of the Spirit.

I’ve come across several places in recent reading of the Scriptures, particularly in the New Testament, that have led me to the conclusion that division was just as big a problem for the early Christians as it is for many of us today, and Jesus and his apostles spent a great deal of time and energy teaching others about the importance of setting aside personal agendas for the sake of the unity of believers.  Over the next three weeks, I will be sharing a few thoughts from key Scripture passages that speak to the radical, potential unity of the church and a few ways that I believe that Worthington Christian can be distinctively unified in our current cultural climate of division.