Christianity Unity Is Costly But Worth It
Taken from Until Unity by Francis Chan. Copyright © 2021 by Francis Chan. Used by permission of David C. Cook www.UntilUnityBook.com.
Two years ago, I spoke at an event. I’ll spare you all the details, but the time I spent with this group was special. My time with the Lord was unique as I fellowshipped with this group. Their leader was like no other leader I had met. His humility was different. It wasn’t forced. He wasn’t trying to sound humble; he just was. He was an example to me, and still is to this day. I kept thinking of the scene in John 1:47 “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” He didn’t seem to have any selfish ambition as he was leading large groups into true discipleship. His knowledge of the Word was exemplary, and his love for people was evident. In short, he reminded me a lot of Jesus. We began serving together at different events, and God did unique things through us every time we were together.
Then came the conflict.
A couple of my staff approached me one day and asked, “Did you know that his organization is strongly egalitarian? In fact, they even wrote a book about it.” We started to question whether our partnership could move forward. If we were both training Christian leaders, how could one of us teach that God wants men and women to be elders in the church while the other taught that the role of the elder is reserved for men? We both seemed to have searched the Scriptures thoroughly, and neither of us seemed to have a selfish agenda, yet we came to different interpretations of the same biblical texts. My immediate response was to do what most of us do in these situations: practice social distancing. Admit that we are both Christian, graciously part ways, affirm a friendship, but keep each other at arm’s length from here on out. That tends to be the easiest way to maintain Christian unity and avoid the conflict from escalating.
Something was biblically off in taking that path, however, and I didn’t feel peace about it for two reasons. (1) I am commanded by Jesus to love my brother as Christ loves me. Jesus has not kept me at a safe distance but keeps pursuing a deeper love. (2) I don’t see this theological disagreement as something that warrants separation.
Maybe there was a deeper reason for my discomfort toward the idea of separating from this leader than the lack of biblical logic for it. There was a true love between us, so it wasn’t easy to part ways. We saw God do things uniquely when we ministered together. He had shown us that we were better serving together. The more we talked about the issues, the more we thought that even this disagreement might be a Kingdom blessing. If we figured out how to pursue unity rather than distancing in our disagreement, maybe God could use us as an example.
A few months later we found ourselves in Myanmar, each of us taking members of ministries to serve together in reaching people who had never heard of Jesus. We committed to pursuing oneness and began to experience the “good and pleasant” benefits of unity described in Psalm 133. One of his leaders pointed out verse 3, which states “For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.” Not only will we experience the joy of unity, but God will command blessing in that kind of relationship. And that is exactly what we experienced over the next few days.
I have believed that miracles of healing were possible, and I have believed the testimonies of friends who had experienced them. I just had never seen it with my own eyes, until that trip. I never watched Him use me as the vehicle for His healing. I was actually present as deaf kids heard for the first time. I was the one who had the honor of laying hands on people and watching pain go away and swelling disappear. Most importantly, I saw people who had never even heard of Jesus begin to embrace Him. Without exaggerating, those were the best days of my life. I believe there was something about the pursuit of unity amid theological differences coupled with a pursuit of the unreached that resulted in the blessing.