Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
Our very brief reading from Psalm 133 this week focuses on the blessing of brothers in unity. The call to unity in Western culture is, if we can conceive of it, even more forceful than calls for diversity. We value unity and consensus, for good reason. Without a form of unity in our goals and priorities we will always be at odds with one another.
I once belonged to a church body that advocated “unity in essentials, freedom in nonessentials, charity in all things.” It sounds like a good plan. Then again, after the church body went through a time of often acerbic debate about what was essential, settled on some items for which the Scripture was not clear, ignored as nonessential some solidly biblical teachings, and told people there was flexibility in adherence to some of the articulated essentials, it became plain to me that I needed to leave. Unity in essentials, except if we don’t think them essential, made no sense. It is no kind of unity at all.
We see this on a larger scale in church teaching and civic life all the time. Some things don’t matter that much, except when they do matter to some people. What is to be done? Can the brothers live together in unity? The answer is an unequivocal “yes.” The key to success, though, is as we learn what is meant by “brothers.” These are the people redeemed by the very specific God of the Bible, recognized in the New Testament as Christians, who hold firmly to Jesus’ Word as revealed in Scripture. They act based on God’s opinion, not their own. Within the bounds of faithful apostolic doctrine - the teachings recognized as truthful by Christians throughout history - they have unity on matters of life and practice.
The unity found in historic Christianity speaks to our need for repentance as God’s Word reveals our sin and failure. It speaks to the great power of God’s forgiveness in Christ. And it anoints us for a life of loving service in this world, like the precious oil poured over Aaron as he was appointed to his priestly service. It is good and precious that we are used by God to speak with one voice in our culture. This consistent life in Christ is a gift to all.
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