Over the past week twenty-one children, students, and adults from our church travelled to Ensenada, Mexico to spend the week with one of our sister churches, Ensenada Peniel Church of the Nazarene. (As a quick aside, the network of relationships between local churches is one of the strengths of a denomination. Upon our arrival at Ensenada Peniel we discovered that Point Loma Nazarene University along with other local Nazarene churches in the Ensenada area had completed the building of a new sanctuary. It’s neat to be part of a church denomination that pools its resources together for the kingdom. Ironically, this post is about unity and I’m talking about denominational relationships. A conversation for another day.)
While trips like these are filled with many reflections one in particular stood out to me:
God didn’t create the world with borders. The were created by kingdoms of this world.
On the Tuesday evening when we arrived in Ensenada I was informed that I would be preaching at the Friday evening worship service our two churches planned to have together to conclude our trip. After contemplating a few different topics and texts to preach on I landed on Ephesians 4:1-16. The emphasis of the text is found in Paul’s repeated use of the word “one” in verses 3-6. Paul writes “…make an effort to preserve the unity of the Spirit with the peace that ties you together. You are one body and one spirit, just as God also called you in one hope. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all, who is over all, through all, and in all.”
These are to be distinct characteristics of the Church.
Our world loves division. But what is true of our world is not to be true of the Church.
Our world is divided. We are divided by nations, cultures, ethnicities, races, genders, languages, and socioeconomic classes. In parts of our world strengthening, maintaining, and honoring these divisions are of great value.
The Church and the kingdom of God are to be united. This is no better stated than in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (3:28), “There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”
This is not to say that within the Church and the kingdom of God people are not different. We most certainly are. Any other conclusion is idealistic silliness and does violence to the beauty found in the diversity of creation. It is to say though, that the indiscriminate nature of the gospel forms communities that are united amidst their differences. In the world our differences fragment and splinter. In the kingdom of God our differences are celebrated and shared. For the world our differences create borders. For the kingdom our differences remain borderless.
And it’s when the church seeks and maintains unity amidst those differences that the church will be made mature and the kingdom of God will be built.