There’s a psalm in the Bible which states, “How good and pleasant it is when families live together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). I think we would all agree that where a group of people is united, they’re likely to experience a lot less friction than they would being divided. The problem is that it’s easy to have a wrong idea about what it means to be united. And this wrong notion can lead to a misunderstanding of what we should come to expect of ourselves as a church family.
What unity is not. Unity is not uniformity. It is not homogeneity. In other words, unity is not everybody agreeing with each other about everything, the keyword being everything. But that’s what we typically think it means. We tend to think that in order to live in unity, we have to agree with one another across the board. There’s a word to describe groups of people which are required to conform, and it’s not ‘family’ or ‘church.’ The word is cult. Only cults require their members to agree on everything. The church is not a cult.
Like any family, Christians come in all shapes and size, ages and races, incomes and styles. We differ from one another in our political leanings as well as our convictions around social issues. Some Christians consume alcohol, and some are teetotalers. Our denominational polities (how we organize ourselves) differ widely. Despite these differences, though, we’re still united under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. He is our common bond. Faith in Jesus Christ is what unites us.
What makes for a united congregation? As I just stated, a healthy congregation is not made up of persons who agree on everything except their core mission. Our mission is what unites us as a church family. Members of a church will never agree on everything, but if they can agree on their core mission, they can effectively work together in accomplishing their common purpose. That it what unity looks like.
For decades, Port Huron First United Methodist Church has played an important role in our community. Throughout the years, our membership and constituency has consisted of people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse political views…and even diverse religious convictions. But all the while, we’ve remained a single, cohesive unit.
Friends, it is my sincerest hope and prayer that we will remain the same congregation united around our common work of sharing the love of Jesus Christ. All along, we’ve had members who believe we should be more inclusive in our views and practices regarding human sexuality AND we’ve had members who believe in a more ‘traditional’ view in this matter. We are heterosexuals AND homosexuals. And despite these differences, we’ve managed to work alongside one another in ministry for all these years. Personally, I see no reason why this has to stop being the case!
Unfortunately, we’re living in a day when we’re led to believe that we can only encamp with people who share our every value and belief. But that’s never been a requirement within the church. Yes, we’re united around our faith in the crucified and risen Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives. But that’s really the only thing necessary for us to be a thriving congregation who’s making a positive impact on the lives of people of Port Huron. Christ is it who unites us.