A Word About Unity
***Below are a few pastoral comments shared in our most recent member meeting***
Without question, many of us feel separated and disconnected. This long trial has tested our patience, our discernment and our love. As I have said more than once, even if we have not been exposed TO the virus, many have been exposed BY this pandemic. I wanted to take a few minutes to speak about what I consider the most dangerous aspect of this unprecdented moment in history. More than the threat to our physical safety, more than our mental health, more than our bank accounts, COVID 19 is a threat to our unity as a church.
What is meant by unity?
FOR UNITY NOT AFFINITY: There are many groups that are unified around an activity, hobby, or cause. But the church of Christ is unique in that what binds us together is not our shared affections, rather, that we possess a shared identity. Our unity is founded on our faith in Christ--that He has set his affection on us--not me. Christ loves the church. Christ died for the church. Christ is head of the church. Some of us are friends because of the love of something, but most of us are friends because of the love of someone. And in ways we don't fully understand, the display of that love requires us to be unified--we need each other--you complete me (think Jerry McGuire...on second thought...don't).
FOR UNITY NOT UNIFORMITY: The metaphor of a body with many parts implies that we are different. We do not lose our individuality as part of the church, rather, or individuality is complemented by one another's. We are more together. As reformed pastor Richard Baxter said, "In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity." Unity does not require uniformity in all things. That which is essential represents a small number of things that we hold with a close hand. Paul's instructions in Romans 14 indicates that there are a number of non-essential things--differences of opinion and conscience--that we must not merely tolerate but forbear and not judge. These are things we disagree on but never divide over.
FOR UNITY NOT SENTIMENTALITY: By sentimentality, I wish to speak the necessity for our unity to extend beyond the emotional. Paul is very clear that we can have a lot of things as a Christian and a church, but if we do not have love, we really have nothing at all. Jesus demonstrated his love for us in that, while we were sinners, Christ died for us. Jesus' love was not merely sentimental, it is tangible. Jesus' love was not passive, it was active. Jesus' love was not self-serving, it was sacrificial. We must do more than simply SAY, THINK, or FEEL that we are unified. Our unity requires empathy that leads to action toward one another. These actions include a shared submission, a shared suffering, a shared sacrifice.
What are some ways to unify?
Unify with us by gathering
The elders believe one of the primary ways that we demonstrate our unity is to GATHER TOGETHER. Even without a pandemic, the Scriptures makes it clear that gathering together is easy to neglect. It is hard to be unified when we are not even present with each other. But it is also hard to be unified when we gather together but express our individual rights in a way that harms our unity. The elders have been careful not to be heavy-handed or reprimand anyone who does this.
If UNITY is as important as the Bible says that is, we'd ask that our members consider making every effort to maintain unity as our primary way to walk in a manner worthy of our calling. To that end, we demonstrate our unity when we submit to our leaders, especially our elders and their guidelines. We demonstrate our unity when we lay down our freedoms out of love for a weaker brother (be it health or conscience). We demonstrate our unity in our unified witness to the world.
Unify with us even when you cannot gather
That said, we also recognize that there are members in our church who for reasons of safety or conscience cannot gather with us to worship. We do believe, however, that before God and your family, you can still make every effort to maintain the unity (See Ephesians 4) that you have as a covenanted member of this church. IF you cannot meet, we'd encourage you to remain connected with Restoration Road Church through streaming our service on Sunday. Even if you have to remain separated from our larger gathering, don't remain disconnected from the church--we want you to worship with us at home until you can worship with us face to face.
We encourage people to gather in homes and practice hospitality as much you feel it wise do so. As Road Groups start up, we encourage you to participate in these smaller gatherings as much as you can. Our hope is that, as the sense of emergency eventually subsides, we will be able to spend some value time reconnecting as a community.