Time has changed me. My faith journey has evolved over time in a way that has caused me to go from one camp to another. I have in many ways walked away from the traditional church and have in many ways joined the emerging church. Unfortunately for both sides, I find a great deal of agitation, frustration, miscommunication, anger and even perhaps hate on both sides of the pendulum. The traditional church is angry with the emergent church for being too inclusive and watering down the gospel. The emergent church is angry with the traditional church for being too rigid and missing half the gospel. The anger runs deep, and there are many days where I wonder what to do with our differences.
I’ve started reading a great book, Deep Church. It is an exploration of what the emergent church is about and why the traditional church is so upset about it, but the book’s main purpose is to blaze a path for a third path for Christianity. It is the way of deep church. The book is full of incredibly helpful discussion and definitions of what exactly the emergent church is and what exactly the traditional church is. The reason I started reading the book, however, is because I long for there to be unity. I struggle with what unity looks like as these two different views on Christianity have significant differences. I wonder what it would look like for us to set aside our differences long enough to agree on a few core elements. I wonder what it would look like if the church set Christ above all our differences.
The other day I was talking to a co-worker and somehow the idea of unity came up. She told me a story about an African American friend of hers living in an affluent, white neighborhood. He wasn’t accepted. People didn’t reach out to him, though he tried to develop relationships with his neighbors. One day in the middle of a rare snowstorm, his car got stuck in the middle of the road. She told me that it was still possible for other vehicles to get around him; but on that day, in that moment, the neighbors stopped to help him. She told me this story and said how she thinks it’s so incredibly beautiful to see people come together, for people to unify. She equated this experience with the unity she saw after 9-11.
As she told me this story, a lot of thoughts entered my mind: the first being that people are hungry to see unity amongst people. It’s rare. It’s beautiful. It’s powerful. And it’s what Christ called the church to. He said that people would know we were His by the way we loved one another. It’s too bad that we often don’t love one another. The second thought I had was that sometimes it takes storms for people to unify. People always bond quicker and stronger during difficult seasons. Thirdly, I must be incredibly blessed because I have seen and experienced countless stories like the one she told me. Fourthly, these people could have this moment of unity and not let it change them. They could come together that day only, or they could act as if they are great neighbors but remain racist and judgmental. When we have moments of unity, often in appearance of serving one another, we must let it change our attitudes, not just our actions.
I confess that I struggle to really love all Christians. I struggle to even want to, but after hearing my friend’s story, I have no doubt that Christ really meant what He said. The world will know we are His when we love one another.