Don’t believe the news about disunity

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Photo by Koshu Kunii on Unsplash

In a few weeks, I will stand in the pulpit of a small Church of Christ congregation that invited me to bring them good news.

I asked what kind of good news they want me to bring.

“Unity,” they said.

The good news is that I have some good news about that:

For [the Christ] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it (Letter to the Ephesians 2:14-16).

Parenthetic paragraph: If you can’t make it to hear the good news I will announce to that little congregation in a few weeks, just stop reading this blog post and go read the entire Letter to the Ephesians. It is a Gospel sermon in letter form, so the best way to read it is out loud and with feeling.

The good news that the Letter to the Ephesians announced is a mystery that only makes it home to our hearts if we make up our minds to believe it. That is that, somehow, God took hold of all the brokenness and division and hostility in humanity and put it in the moment when humanity broke Jesus to bits on his cross. In the cross, God somehow paid off and used up all of the contempt and hatred and violence that humanity has for itself.

But that is only half of the good news, half of the mystery.

The other half (according to the Letter to the Ephesians) is that God raised the Christ from the dead in a new body–cosmic, infinite, spiritual–that goes on living forever and ever. And this new body that God gave the Christ at his resurrection is not a human body that breaks others or may be broken itself; it is a body that and holds all things as one unified whole (Letter to the Ephesians 1:22-23).

In other words, God healed and made humanity whole once and for all in the resurrection body of the Christ.

We humans may try to find ways to put ourselves together, but our efforts always fail. We never got everyone to agree and we never will. This is the problem that the Letter to the Ephesians pointed out as the reason for God’s action on our behalf (Letter to the Ephesians 2:11-22).

The only way to unity, according to the Letter to the Ephesians, is through faith in the unity that God made for us in the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Christ.

Unity is not something that humanity can make for itself; it is something we must choose to enter through by choosing to believe in it.

Why is this good news?

It is good news because we already know–deep down–that we don’t have what it takes to get together and stay together. We know–deep down–that every effort at unity will fail.

We end up cynical, pessimistic. We find easy excuses to give into anger, hostility, and violence (because we know that is how it will turn out anyway).

So believing that God finished unity in the Christ is good news because it assures us that, no matter how hard it gets or how much we fail, unity is our certain destiny. It is God’s will that we all end up together in perfect unity (Letter to the Ephesians 3:11). Whose will is going to trump that?

There is a big difference between dreading fate (disunity through human effort) and looking forward to destiny (unity in the Christ).

I need this good news, this mystery, just now.

I read the headlines every morning–bad news about the dis-*unity of humanity. When I read those headlines, I need to turn to the Gospel–good news about the *unity of humanity that is set and sure in the Christ.

Disunity may be what humanity is trying to make of itself now, but it will give way to the unity that God made once and for all in the Christ.

I just finished ‘Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle’ by Dante Stewart. His epistle has me so discouraged and disoriented, despairing that Black and white people in America can ever truly be together and love each other truly and wholly. I confess that as I read the book, I felt doomed to disunity.

But here’s the good news: I don’t know how we’re going to get there and, frankly, I can’t even imagine what unity will feel and look like when we do reach it. I know it won’t come cheap and easy because it cost Jesus his life, just as it will cost us our lives, too, if our faith is real. There has been too much injustice in the world for unity to come without that pain it takes to make the wrongs right. Jesus did bear that pain on the cross, but we must not forget that he promised each of us must bear a cross, too, our share of the pain of justice (Gospel of Matthew 16:24-26).

The good news, however, is that God is hellbent that we will get there. We will get to justice. We will get to unity. All of us. Together. We will somehow grow into each other and, together, grow up into the “fullness of Christ” (Letter to the Ephesians 4:13). Some of us may come kicking and screaming, but God’s will will win out in the end. Every one of us will be part of God “making all things new” (Book of Revelation 21:5).

We can choose to believe the bad news we read and see every day.

We can choose to give in to cynicism and pessimism and let those become our excuses to live in anger, apathy, contempt, hostility, and violence.

We can choose those things, but we will be choosing the things that God nailed to the cross. We can choose the things that God condemned and sentenced to oblivion.

Nothing will stand in the way of the will of God and the will of God is unity.

Choose something else at your own risk.

I choose to believe the Gospel as truth. I choose to believe that God accomplished unity once for all in the Christ. I choose to believe that I am in the Christ’s cosmic, infinite, spiritual body–a body that contains and holds all things together as one (Letter to the Ephesians 1:10 and Letter to the Ephesians 4:10).

I may not know how long it will take to wake up in that unity or what it will feel and look like when I wake up there, but at least I know that is our destiny together–the gift of God’s “pleasure” (Letter to the Ephesians 1:3-14).

So let’s keep trying…for each other. We can try and fail and try again because we know that we’ll get there. Thanks be to God that unity is our destiny and, if we have faith to believe it, our current reality in Christ.

What will you choose to believe?

 
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