One of my co-workers has pointed out that I’ve caught the “unity bug”. I caught it as a senior at Cornell University, sitting beside my Jewish friend along with 600 Christians and non-Christians in the arts quad for an inter-fellowship Easter service. Two years later, it is Holy week again and I find myself in a small crisis of faith, wondering if this bug I’ve caught is from the Lord. So I asked Him to show me what unity is supposed to look like, and He responded with Romans 12.
“A Living Sacrifice” – Obedience
The chapter begins, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” When I look back into the Old Testament, asking what a “holy and acceptable” sacrifice looks like, it is clear that God’s desire is for obedience.
It feels, though, like obedience is a bad word in the church today. We obey to an extent, but we are so afraid of legalism that we easily justify disobedience in the name of freedom.
But dream with me for a moment. What if we were all to be true, living sacrifices? David says “the sacrifices of God are a broken and contrite heart.” The Hebrew word shachah, translated to “worship”, means to lie prostrate. I imagine the best physical description of a broken and contrite heart would be shachah. What if we were all to live our lives prostrate before God, obedient to such an extreme that we let go of our pride, our fear, our personal convictions, our own dreams and aspirations? What if, like Abel, we really were to withhold nothing from God? I see a church, prostrate at the throne of God, with one voice singing “holy, holy, holy is the Lamb.”
“Many Members, One Body” – Humility
Next, Paul warns everyone “not to think of himself more highly than he ought, but to think with sober judgment.” The next verse describes a body of many members, paralleling the one Church body comprised of many gifts.
The day before Easter this year, we hosted an Easter Arts and Music Festival at MIT. It was the dream of one visionary student. We didn’t assign it to a particular group or fellowship, but simply said, “we want to worship Jesus and see people saved”. I have never seen anything like what resulted.
In the days leading up to the event, five different universities, three local churches, three campus ministries, and four national ministries gathered on MIT’s campus to pray for souls to enter the Kingdom of God. It didn’t matter that some were speaking in tongues while others were praying “hail Mary’s”. The prayer team, prophet team, food team, worship team, hospitality team, and tree-climbing set-up team all came with no agenda but to humbly serve the vision of one student who wanted to glorify the Resurrected King. One man’s words to me were “I’ve been here from set up to take-down, and I have never seen this before. Every single person’s heart is united. Everyone wants to praise Jesus.”
At the end of the night, the student who organized the Easter festival was so overcome with gratitude, she commented, “I wonder if they all realize how much I love them.”
Having communicated with all the separate teams, I had to laugh at her and ask, “Do you realize how much they all love you?!”
That night I learned that unity doesn’t happen for unity’s sake. Our goal wasn’t to unite people. It was so incredibly simple- to love Jesus. Because the motivation was clear, genuine, and right, the love that was directed upward at Jesus seemed to rain down on us all, warming our hearts with a true and genuine love for one another.
Romans 12 starts with God’s loving mercy and ends with our brotherly love. There’s the key to unity- it starts and ends with love.
Kelsey is a second year intern with Cru campus ministry in Boston, working mainly at MIT. This year she will be trailblazing a new internship in the northeast called Freedom58, a partnership between Cru and International Justice Mission, to bring Biblical Justice into Christian conversation at universities.