“It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements.” Have you ever wondered if unity is possible, especially among people of faith? In my more cynical moments I wonder if the unity that emerged during the council at Jerusalem was a “one-off” event. Today the church seems to make more headlines for its theological division than for its ability to bring folks together. The reasons for this fracturing are varied and move from humorous to sad. There is an urban legend about a church that split over a painting in the baptistery that depicted Adam and Eve with belly buttons. When I was in college I remember debating vigorously about the virgin birth and Jesus’ resurrection. If someone was on the other side of my position I quickly moved to questioning their faith commitments.
In 2013 many faith battles are directly connected to sexuality. As more and more churches rethink think their stances on the ordination and marriage of gays and lesbians the church seems less and less unified. Some church leaders have even taken to starting new denominations over these disputes.
I realize that unity for the sake of unity makes no sense. After all if everyone is unified in allowing something that is evil to occur then unity is only allowing a mass of folks to do and be wrong. Unifying people of faith around unity only is pointless at best.
This does not change that Jesus’ final hope for people of faith was that they would be unified (read John 17). My job provides me with many opportunities to work with both liberal and conservative believers. If I am honest I see no quick faith fix to the sexuality battles. Unity is still a possibility. It will demand something people of faith often confuse with backsliding - compromise.
Like the leaders at the council of Jerusalem the church needs to become less concerned with burdening its membership with unnecessary requirements. When Jesus was asked what was most important, his response was simple, concise, and profound. For Jesus everything boiled down to love. Anything we do as individuals or communities of faith that violates this rule moves all of us towards dis-unity.
As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “love God, love your neighbor, nothing else matters.”