Over the next few days I want to gather together some quotes and thoughts on Christian unity. It's been a subject that I've been thinking about in recent weeks, both in theology and in practice.
Here's a quote to start the series from Francis Schaeffer, whose starting point for this discussion is John 13:33-35:
Not all differences amongst Christians are equal. There are some that are very minor. Others are overwhelmingly important.I'm challenged as I read this passage, especially the final paragraph. As I enter into a new job with UCCF, I am only too aware of the need for visible Christian unity and love with other true believers with whom I (and maybe UCCF) disagree - in theology, in methodology and so on. What will it look like to love these brothers and sisters? Schaeffer is right: the work of prayer is vital.
The more serious the wrongness, the more important it is to exhibit the holiness of God, to speak out concerning what is wrong. At the same time, the more serious the differences become, the more important it is that we look to the Holy Spirit to enable us to show love to the true Christians with whom we must differ. If it is only a minor difference, showing love does not take much conscious consideration. But where the difference becomes really important, it becomes proportionately more important to speak for God's holiness. And it becomes increasingly important to show the world that we love each other.
Humanly we function in exactly the opposite direction: in the less important differences we show more love toward true Christians, but as the difference gets into more important areas, we tend to show less love. The reverse must be the case. As the differences amongst true Christians get greater, we must consciously love and show a love which has some manifestation the world may see.
So let us consider this: is my difference with my brother in Christ really crucially important? If so, it is doubly important that I spend time upon my knees asking the Holy Spirit, asking Christ, to do his work through me and my group, that I and we might show love even in this larger difference that we have come to with a brother in Christ or with another group of true Christians.[The Mark of the Christian, pages 46-47]