Church Covenant, Section 1 (Newsletter 09.27.17)

Dear Church Family,

After much discussion, last Sunday night (9/24) by God’s grace our church voted unanimously to adopt updated documents as they were proposed. This is no small feat. Of course, until Jesus returns there will be all kinds of things we disagree about, but the beauty of the vote is the way it trumpets the unity that we have in Christ. In connection with this, one of the documents we adopted is our church covenant. Over the next few months, I plan to use these newsletters to briefly discuss one section of the covenant at a time. The first section reads: “We will work and pray for unity among the members of this body, choosing to love one another even as we love ourselves and make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”

Why is unity important? Unity is important because the God we are called to reflect is One. Christ is not divided and therefore His people must not be either. Listen to the words of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John 17:22-23, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” Did you catch that last part? Jesus says our unity within the church causes the world to know Son’s unity with the Father.

Where does unity come from? Ultimately, unity comes from God. That’s why we covenant to pray for unity among the members of this body. We recognize if God does not intervene we will have as many divisions as we have people. But we should find great comfort to know Jesus Christ Himself prayed for our unity two millennia before we were even born in John 17:20-21. The beauty of the Gospel is that the unity of our church has nothing to do with who we are, where we’re from, our likes and dislikes, our social and cultural status—our unity has everything to do with Jesus. That’s why Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Of course, each one of us is a unique individual with all sorts of distinct qualities, but the church is not built on what sets us apart from one another—the church is built on the unified confession that Jesus Christ is Lord.

How do we work for unity? We work for unity by “choosing to love one another even as we love ourselves and mak[ing] every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.” That means when we come together, our intention is not to emphasize our differences and distinctions as individual members or even as a local church in this particular time and space. When we come together, we come to maximize what we all hold in common—our love of and belief in our Lord Jesus Christ. The kind of unity we’re talking about doesn’t require us to have total agreement with everyone on everything. In fact, our unity in Christ is often displayed most beautifully when we forgo our individual preferences and opinions for the sake of the whole.

Let me encourage you to read back over this first section of our church covenant and ask the Lord to reveal to you where and how you might grow in this area even this week. There is so much more we could say, but let me close with the charge of the apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:1-3, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

Gentry