“Oneness” (Part Two)

God’s box of crayons blend all the colors into one.

crayons

onenessI [Brian] played basketball for a few teams from elementary through high school. I recall one game in particular. We were a multiethnic group. Jon was Asian, Chris and Josh were white, Al was Hispanic, Kurt and I, black. We were playing one of the only all black team’s in a predominantly white Catholic league. They were known to be tough and intimidating. I cannot say for certain how they got their reputation, whether it was because they were black, or because they were good, or both. However, this made no difference to our team…we all believed we could win.

Right from the opening tip the game pace was fast. This played into our favor; we all believed we could win. But, it did not take long before we found ourselves down by double digits. Undaunted, we still all believed we could win. By half time we were down by twenty points as we went into the locker room.

In the locker room we voiced how we all believed we could win. Our coach agreed but evaluated our performance. He told us he had no doubt we all believed we could win. What he pointed out was we all had different ideas of how we should accomplish what we believed. Here is the problem with diversity. Though we all spoke the same jargon we did not share a common unity that would produce a common success. There was an undetected diversity in the word we spoke, “we can win,” and this diversity of word was visible in our play on the court.

We may want to be one, to be a unit, to have the same goal to “win the game,” but if we have different ideas about how we should accomplish what we believe we will not see oneness. Jesus reveals that the key to the oneness of believers is in keeping God’s Word (John 17:6, 8, 14, 17; cf. Ps 119:160). Our “oneness” as believers requires we stand with each other on the truth of Scripture. Keeping God’s Word is a demonstration of unity (Ps 119.69).

oneness-markI [Mark] was helping a sister in Christ Pat with her website for abused women. She wanted to know what kind of doctrinal statement she should use. I suggested the modern version of “The Apostles Creed” which has consensus across Christendom. She wanted a unifying statement of belief that would draw together many believers, no matter their church or denomination. Her concern mirrors that of Brian and I: diversity causes division, unity unites. Believers unite under a common cause, a common understanding, a common name, and the common Word. Unity trumps diversity.

The diversity detrimental to the team was found in each player’s definition of unity not in each player’s color. Ethnicity is genealogical and geographical, oneness is positional and spiritual. Oneness is based on God’s Word, not our words. Oneness is based on our commitment to God and His people.

God’s box of crayons blend all the colors into one.

Brian is the Pastor of Discipleship and Church Growth at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Laurel, MD.  He took the class “Theological Foundations of Ministry” from Dr. Mark Eckel; they have been friends ever since. Brian blogs at cellsoflife.org and his teaching can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/user/CellsOfLife. “Oneness is an imperative theme in Dr. Eckel’s teaching at Capital Seminary & Graduate School.

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5 comments

  1. I hear the ring of truth in what you say. I especially liked the Basketball team picture that you drew. However, if we are going to achieve unity among God’s people, which group, what people is going to give up what makes them diverse? I personally, am wed to my ethnicity, my view of the world and am not all that enthusiastic about making the kind of change that would be necessary to be one with other folk. I do love the Lord and would buy in easily to being one spiritually. How do you picture oneness in all aspects of our lives?

    1. The one thing Mark and I are NOT saying is that ethnic difference is why the body of Christ is not one. In my opinion, to say that is to speak against God’s creation, in particular, His intention that Man would be several Nations (Gen. 12:2-3; Rev. 7:9-10). So we would not advocate any group giving up their ethnicity for the cause of Oneness — that would be adverse to what is intended in the Oneness Christ prays for in the Scriptures.

      That being said, we must also address the reality that ethnicity in the purest sense (that which God intended) is not the problem. Ethnic tribalism, which is at the root of the world’s diversity (certainly this is evident in Western cultures), is a large part of the problem. This is similar to patriotism to one’s country in a sense as our loyalty to a country will often be the catalyst for actions we take around the world. If two known Christians are in the army of two different countries that are in conflict are faced off at a time of war what should be the outcome of their interaction?

      The above is a loaded question that can have an innumerable amount of variables, but the underlying question is will their patriotism and duty to their country come before God’s call to Oneness in heart and purpose? Can the two coexist in man? I am sure if we asked 100 people we would get 100 diversified answers. Therein lies the conversation.

      Maybe an interesting book to consider is 1 John. It begs the question can we be spiritually one and not be actively, practically, visibly one (1 John 3)? Interesting that in this chapter in v.9 John transitions from talking about continued sin and seemingly connects the idea of continued sin with loving our brethren in Christ. That’s another conversation for another time.

      Thank you for your comments! They show we need to have this conversation in our Churches. This is the intent for which Mark and I write on this subject.

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