When you’re working for something as indefinable as unity in a city, it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
There are over 600 churches in Metro Boston, and probably more than 2,000 in Greater Boston, each pastor and leader doing something unique and fabulous for the Kingdom. As I meet with these incredible individuals, I stand in awe and celebrate what God is doing.
But at the end of the day, I stand there with my hands up and the question remains: Jesus, how do you bring all these beautiful pieces together? Few argue that uniting together as the body of Christ isn’t important, but where do you begin?
In one sense, unity is imprecise, indefinable, and hazy.
But the thing about unity is, you know it when you see it. And I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen more instances of unity in the past ten days than in my lifetime.
Unity looks like every hand, Catholic and Evangelical, being raised to answer the question of “Who believes in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?”
Unity looks like twelve suburban pastors deciding that the suburbs should no longer be known for being closed-off and distant. Coming together for one united service, congregations were challenged in their understanding of the kingdom of God and our role as local churches.
Unity is Frank, a Ugandan man, proclaiming to the world that I’m his twin sister. Anyone with two eyes can see that isn’t true, yet when we pray together I could swear that we were made from the same fabric.
Unity is people setting aside their own schedules to come together in prayer – and discovering that when their eyes are on Jesus, the doctrinal issues seem quite trivial.Unity is a mother weeping in pain over her recently murdered son, then having five friends old and new coming around her to lift her up in prayer – knowing that only the Father can understand the heart-wrenching agony of losing a son and provide the comfort she aches for.
Unity is a worship service in Roxbury running two hours over time: whites, blacks, and every color in-between singing and dancing and hugging till 11pm at night; no one wanting to leave because God was in the house.
Unity is intimate times of prayer where Jesus is as close as your heartbeat, but it is also deep conversations with friends in coffee shops, awkward worship times with pianos without pedals, and smiling over huge hunks of communion bread when you are fasting.
While I don’t believe that events in themselves are the basis of unity, every year I’m amazed at how the 10 Days of Prayer knits hearts together. Gregg Detweiler put it well when he said, “When two people embrace, even after you let go, there is a residue of you on the other person, and the other person on you.”
Not only does this exchange happen among individuals in the gatherings, but it begins to happen corporately, because each night is hosted not by one church, but a group of churches that are connected relationally, locationally, or ethnically. It is a beautiful thing to behold, because when two become one, even when you go your own separate ways, you are never the same.
Jesus defined unity as this: “I in you, and you in me.” (John 17:21)
Essentially, the 10 Days is a visit to the eye doctor that we might re-calibrate our spiritual vision for the Church individually and corporately. I must receive new sight, in order that I might see your Jesus, and that you might see the Jesus in me. After all, _N_TY doesn’t really work without you and I – You have something that I need, and I have something that you need, which is what it means to be part of a body.
Unity is not me but we. It is as much about respecting our differences as it is about recognizing our commonalities. In the Rally to Restore Unity, Rachel Evans said “Unity is about reconciliation, humility, patience, and laughter. It’s about sifting through all the “extras” to find what is essential. It’s about making enough room at the table for tax collectors and zealots, prostitutes and Pharisees, Arminians and Calvinists, Republicans and Democrats, barbecue chicken and mashed potatoes.”
So at the end of the day, when I look at what God is doing in this city, and wonder what I can do to connect the dots, I still feel overwhelmed. I kneel on my hardwood floor, raise my hands to the Father, and whisper, “Jesus, I need your help.”
And He says, “Yes, you do. And don’t you ever forget it. But all I’ve ever asked you to do is love my people.”
No, I’m not here to unite a city. That is much to big a task for one young woman. I know that I myself am completely utterly incapable of removing age-old barriers and righting wrongs that have been done. That’s something only Jesus can do.
No, I can’t unite a city. But I can love the person in front of me. I will do what I can do, and trust that God will take care of the rest.
After all, unity is simply hearts bound together in love – a big embrace, the body of Christ joining hands together with Jesus at the center.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. (Colossians 3:12-14 MSG)