A Candid Conversation About Unity

Todd Wilson

Words matter. They can make the difference between life and death.

Imagine the impact and the chaos that would ensue if emergency room doctors and nurses each had different definitions (or understandings) of words. Patients would die.

Consider our national dialogue as a people. The words we use matter. They make the difference between peace and war, love and hate, calm and chaos, hope and despair, and unity and disunity.

Unfortunately, words also have the power to divide us and keep us from the unity and oneness that Jesus prayed for in his final hours before the cross.  He prayed that we would BE one so that the world would take notice and be drawn to him.

If we’re really honest, how is the current approach working for us? As Christians, are we pursuing oneness in a way that makes the name of Jesus more famous and draws people to him?

We live in one of the most divided and divisive times of our nation’s history. Social media, political tensions, and unresolved racial issues pour gasoline on an already blazing fire.

Over the coming 12 weeks, Exponential is facilitating a conversation on 12 race topics that need to unite rather than divide the Body of Christ.

This 12-week focus is taking the form of a live, weekly online show called “Candid Conversations.” It’s being hosted by Efrem Smith, Grant Skeldon, and Exponential’s CEO Todd Wilson. Each week a different special guest will help us unpack and look at the meaning of key words (and topics) and the aspects that make the words potentially explosive.

Our aim is not to convert followers of Jesus to one right definition of a word (or view). Instead, we seek to challenge leaders to relook at the definitions they’ve embraced and how those definitions impact our ability to have bridge building conversations. In the process, we are seeking to model healthy conversations between leaders with varying viewpoints.

In the debut episode on August 6, 2020, Dr. John Perkins joins us to unpack the meaning and importance of unity! Click here to register for this free webinar.

Unity.

We all use the same word, but may not all have the same meaning.

Webster’s says:

  • the quality or state of not being multiple – ONENESS
  • a condition of harmony ACCORD
  • the quality or state of being made one UNIFICATION

Jesus said, “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17)

Oneness and unity go hand in hand. Jesus is praying for something not yet attained, but absolutely essential to our identity.  Reread the passage above and ask yourself this question:  Can the church accomplish its mission without increasing levels of unity? Can you be effective in your witness to an unbelieving world without unity?

The great mystery of Jesus’ prayer is the paradoxical coexistence of unity and diversity. How are a diverse group of people loaded with different views, baggage, and customs to pursue and attain unity?

While it represents a huge challenge (and hence Jesus’ prayer), our political or Biblical or ideological views can’t be allowed to cloud the important of oneness and unity in Jesus’ eyes. We must prioritize and work for it.

In calling us to it, Jesus surely doesn’t want us to use it as a crutch for avoiding difficult and needed conversations. What people of color often cite as their concern with “unity” is that it can be another way of silencing the voices of those crying out and needing to be heard.

If we’re not careful, the call for unity can become a means for not having difficult conversations.

Unity can be mistaken for the desire to have all people think the same things.

So how does the biblical concept of unity differ from our misconceptions?

BIBLICAL UNITY EXISTS ALONGSIDE DISTINCTIONS

There were Jews, Greeks, Romans, Barbarians, and Scythians. Although these distinctions were real and divisive and challenging, the early Christians persisted in prioritizing God’s will for unity.

Jesus called for it. Paul frequently spoke of it. Christians are to fight boldly and persistently for it. It’s through the diversity of our distinctions that the power of God is manifested through the unity of a family of Believers.

The Triune God Himself, who is distinctly three persons, yet one God models this for us.

BIBLICAL UNITY EXISTS ALONGSIDE DIFFERENT POINTS OF VIEW

When God created male and female, he formed them from the soil of planet earth.

However, some have surmised that men are from Mars, and women are from Venus simply because their points of view are so different.

Despite their differences, man and woman become one in the unity of family; the three-legged race of marriage.

BIBLICAL UNITY EXISTS ALONGSIDE DIFFICULT SEASONS OF CHANGE

We must never forget that the Jerusalem council, the pivotal chapter of the whole book of Acts, wrestled with how to maintain unity among the Jewish and Gentile believers so that the gospel could continue to spread and multiply.

The Gentiles who were once “far off” were now made near by the blood of Christ, and this was an ethnic tension in the early church.

The early church did not duck the challenge, but met it head on.

Therefore, fighting for ethnic unity is a New Testament issue.

It is a multiplication issue.

Exponential does not want to define terms for you, argue specific viewpoints you should have, or assume that it will end racism.

What we DO want to see is unity among those who may differ both in ethnicity and understanding.

The opposite of unity is division.

Therefore, we seek to answer Jesus’s high priestly prayer from John 17:20-23. Our aim is that you would join the conversations we are having in order to host conversations of your own.

It starts with unity. So, what is your definition?

Join us on Thursday, August 6 at 2:00 p.m. ET for a candid conversation on UNITY. Efrem Smith and Todd Wilson will host special guest Dr. John Perkins. Click here to register for this FREE webinar.

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