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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Make Us One




When I was young, I was asked to serve a congregation in Southern California. Full of zeal and short on leadership experience, I was quickly introduced to the world of political maneuvering by individuals having specific agendas.

My first board meeting included a contentious debate surrounding what color we would paint our church buses!


I was to learn quickly: Unity is not the same as agreement.


I wondered: If we can’t agree on what color to paint our church buses, how will we ever be united on essential matters?


Well-meaning people stress how vital it is for leadership to show others that we are united. That’s often coded language for: “You must agree with me.”


But what happens when we disagree? Is it possible to maintain unity amid discord?

Conflict happens. Disharmony is not a new problem in society or the Church. Disagreements among citizens or fellow Christ-followers shouldn’t surprise us. We expect political parties to have different agendas. However, when it comes to the Church, why are we shocked when disagreements occur?


The New Testament reveals a variety of disagreements within the church.

In the book of Acts alone, we observe the selfishness of Ananias and Sapphira (5:1-11). We notice the injustice of prejudice towards those who neglect the Greek-speaking widows (6:1), and witness the insistence of those who maintain that Gentiles must be circumcised first before becoming disciples of Christ (15:1).


The problem with these disagreements (or what color to paint church buses) is that they threaten unity.


Unity is living in oneness with each other—despite our differences. True harmony always expresses itself in a shared commonality.


As followers of Jesus, we share the experience of Christ as Lord and confess Christ in baptism (Eph. 4:5,13). Regardless of Christian affiliation, we share the same sense of mission (Mt. 28:19-20). We share a concern for one another (1 Cor. 12:25; Phil. 2:2; 1 Pet. 3:8) and the shared experience of suffering for Jesus’ sake (2 Cor. 1:6; Phil. 1:29-30; 1 Thess. 2:14; 1 Pet. 5:9).


It's our shared experiences and core beliefs that unite us. The disagreement on what color to paint the buses is what can divide us. And for this color-blind pastor, I honestly don’t care what color you paint the buses!


I’m more concerned that we don’t forget why we have the buses: To bring children to hear the great news that God loves them so much that He sent Jesus to die for them so they can live!


Jesus’ prayer is still essential for us today:

Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11b).


May we ever strive for greater unity and fellowship with one another.


-Richard Parrish



 

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