The REAL Threat to Unity

As the conversation around World Vision’s decision to hire married gay folks has unfolded (or perhaps, unraveled), it didn’t take long for certain voices to issue warnings about division and disunity in the church.

Sometimes those warnings are justified and helpful, coming from the position of desiring all sides to be fully heard before any judgments are rendered, and to seek to stay together even amidst disagreement.

And sometimes they come from a particular side, and, particularly, the more powerful side. In this case, the warning about division and disunity is a little bit like shaming the wronged person for speaking up because their voice was too loud, and then publicly putting them back in “their place.” It protects those in power, and it protects those who are doing the wrong thing in the first place.

Thus, we must be discerning when this warning comes, or when we are tempted to issue these warnings. Is it really about unity through the process of hearing everyone out and rendering good judgments that protect those who are being wronged? Or is it more about protecting the interests of those controlling the conversation?

Jesus & all the prophets were seen as disturbers of the peace, upsetters of unity. [Tweet This]

They refused to cry “Peace! Peace!” when there was none. They were willing to risk division when standing for true peace and equity and honesty demanded it. Their words rose to the occasion, were not devoid of passion, did not leave things open-ended.

Their words got them killed.

But note well. Jesus and the prophets believed in unity. They didn’t want things to come apart, and, with corrections, wanted there to be togetherness amidst disagreement.

And, they believed that the greatest threat to unity was not dissent from the people but dismissal from the religious powers. Thus, when a major Christian organization says, “Farewell,” and by that means to excommunicate the group in question from True Christianity, to the endangerment of outsiders, innocent oppressed children, and the church’s witness in the world, a threat to unity has occurred. The words that come in response to that dismissive act are not actually divisive, though the powers say that they are. It was the initial action that constitutes prima facie evidence of division. The words that come in response are actually aimed at preserving unity while prioritizing justice and mercy (not sacrifice).

Thus, the greatest hope for unity in situations like this is careful, clear, bold speech that stands for peace, equity, and honesty.

Yes, this should all be done in love.

But remember, Jesus’s story of the Good Samaritan was given in love, with a desire to see all those neighbors included in the kingdom that the religious powers had excluded but God had accepted.

And it was highly offensive, disturbing, and upsetting to the religious status quo.

About Zach Hoag

Zach J. Hoag is a writer and missional minister from notoriously non-religious New England. He blogs here at Patheos and HuffPost Religion. His book, Nothing but the Blood: The Gospel According to Dexter, released in 2012. Most importantly he binge-watches TV dramas and plays in the snow with his family.

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