Imagine after much anticipation and training, you are finally ready to hike the mountain you have always been wanting to conquer.
Upon an early morning arrival at the mountain, you decide the best option is to leave your gear at the bottom of the mountain. At the moment it seems possible to hike the mountain with no gear, no food, just the clothes on your back and what is in your hands.
Hiking has always brought clear connections to the story of my life, including a strong picture of the need for unity. In John 17 Jesus talks about unity in a powerful way, showing how necessary it is to the mission of seeing the kingdom of God advance in our world.
He says “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (Jn 17:22-23)
How ridiculous would it be to train and prepare for a hike, yet leave the tools and gear behind that is designed to help you accomplish your mission? We make a similar mistake when we give up on unity. Jesus speaks of unity in a way that illuminates it not just as a suggestion, but as a necessary foundation to the spread of His love to the nations.
After all, He does say when we come together and unify, “then the world will know God has sent Jesus and has loved us just as He has loved Jesus (paraphrase)”.
By avoiding unity, we put the brakes on Christ’s love advancing. By being afraid of and intimidated by unity, we allow ourselves and the church to remain right where we are.
But by embracing unity, we lay a foundation and example, opening the door to show the world Jesus’ love.
However good this may sound, unity is scary, difficult and easy to talk about while remaining difficult to make happen.
Since I was a teenager, I have been drawn to unity, helping me to learn along the way about what can hold us back from unity. Here are three common difficulties which I have encountered and have seen often cause us to abandon unity, trying to continue the journey on our own.
1. It is difficult.
There are many things we know are good and important, but avoid because they are difficult.
Unity can easily be intimidating because of the complications attached to the idea. How do we come together with people so different? Who will make the decisions? Who’s name will we use?
These are all very real and valid struggles.
These struggles are impossible to navigate without a willingness to depend on the Holy Spirit’s guidance. It is easier to forget about unity because it may be difficult (which it is).
The Lord never promised it would be easy, but He did promise He would stay with us through the struggle.
2. I don’t need it.
Another obstacle can be the false belief which tells us we can sustain our self. Particularly in the North American culture, we are often surrounded with an excess of resources and opportunities and it becomes possible to feel we can accomplish everything we need on our own.
Whatever we accomplish on our own, God will increase when we collaborate with others. The way God designed his kingdom to advance is through a fabric of intertwined personalities, communities and relationships. He is looking for opportunities to bring people together and when we convince ourselves that our church, or family, or community is self-sufficient and no longer needs other people to survive, we begin to limit ourselves from the opportunity to thrive.
3. It is impossible.
Unity is rarely done well. Unity is something which is difficult to identify, and even more difficult to define. When looking at the vast amount of differences in the communities around us, beliefs, and interests, unity often seems impossible.
If we are honest, all of us have likely looked around and wondered how in the world God could restore the mess we see around us.
It is time for us to stop waiting for obstacles to disappear and start trusting God to carry us through them. God’s call is to show His love and His plan to the world as we live sacrificially and work together so those who do not know Him can join the journey He has called us to.
We are all climbing a mountain, living a life aimed towards restoring the land and lives around us. Why not use all the tools God has given us? Why leave gear at the bottom which will help us reach the top? It is time to stop running away from unity and expecting it to be someone else’s responsibility.
This is the first of two posts on “Leadership + Unity”. Pt. 2 of this post will address 3 ways we can overcome obstacles to unity. Subscribe to the blog by clicking HERE to make sure you don’t miss it.