Forward Progress Toward Unity

January 19, 2010

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

cyclingThere was a season in my life when I did quite a bit of cycling.  Triathlons, actually, were a bit of a hobby for me, so spending countless hours each week on a bike, riding through the country side was just a part of the lifestyle.  I was pretty bad, by the way.  I’m certain I never even finished a triathlon in the faster half of the field.  So, it was no big surprise the afternoon I was out on a long ride and pulled into a rest area only to get my feet stuck in the pedal clips as I pulled to a stop, causing me to basically roll over in the parking lot in front of a large crowd of people.  It was a humiliating experience.  It seems that bicycles were not designed to stand up straight unless they are actually moving forward.

I have always held that church unity is a function of Spiritual formation in the lives of individuals.  That makes it much more a journey than a destination.  And preserving the unity of the Spirit is work…lots of work.  On  one of my trips to South Africa, this point got driven home for me.  There, I encountered a church who seemed to understand intuitively the amount of work involved in genuine Spiritual formation.  Rather than my having to encourage them to  continue learning about unity despite having just completed a 6-hour conference on the topic, they came to me during breaks and after the sessions telling me all the ways they were considering to further develop these ideas about preserving the unity in the church.  They realized (perhaps more so than any church I have been in) how very important it is to maintain forward progress in their individual walks with the Lord, in order to preserve the unity of the Spirit among them.  They understood that Spiritual proximity to Christ, like a bicycle, is either moving forward or it is falling.

I believe this is Paul’s point in Philippians 3:10-15:

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are mature should take such a view of things.

Unity in the church is a function of Spiritual formation in the lives of individuals.  The closer I draw to Christ, the closer I draw to God’s people.  Pretty simple, really.  So why do we make it so complicated?

© Blake Coffee

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