Towards Unity Pt 2 – Stuart Johnson

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Theology in reconIf the universal church is full of churches that are divided against each other, then this implies a divided Christ.  What is obvious in the universal community of the Body of Jesus Christ, who intrinsically cannot be divided, is a very divided Body.  It is as if there are several different Christ’s that are being portrayed, each with their own views on what Jesus Christ has done and what this means to us.  All cannot be right.  There must be some way of appropriating the true nature of who Jesus Christ and His self-communicating of God to us by which we can all measure what we say of God in comparison to what God says of Himself to us.  This raises the question that all must ask of ourselves that Jesus asked of His disciples in Matt 16:15: “Who do you say that I am?”  The answer to this simple question can have enormously significant implications on how we proceed towards unity with the same frame of mind we find in the writings of Paul, the writings of the early Fathers into the Nicene era compared with our frame of mind today.

The wall of hostility that has divided humanity with God has been destroyed as well as the wall of hostility that has divided human beings against other human beings has also been destroyed in the actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.  In Jesus Christ there is reconciliation between God and humanity as well as person to person reconciliation.  If there is a failure for this to be manifested in the universal church, then somewhere along the history of the church as a whole, we have lost sight of the reality of the humanity of Jesus Christ as the Head of the body of the one universal church.  As there is one Lord Jesus Christ so there is only one universal church.  The function of the one universal church is to literally be the hands that deliver to all the very heart of God disclosed to us in and through the Person and work of Jesus Christ.  The mark of the one universal church is to know it is loved to the uttermost and thereby we love others as the fruit of our being which shares in the divine nature of Jesus Christ (2Peter 1:4).  The truth of the church is that it is grounded in reconciled love and the action of the church is the reconciling loving community that woos others into the light of reconciling love of Jesus Christ.

Hence any failure on the part of the church to realise the dynamic unity by which it lives would inevitably call in question its ontological grounding in the unity of God given to it through Jesus Christ and in the Spirit, and any division arising within the Church would have the effect of introducing into its very existence, for it would mean that the Church had fallen into disagreement with its innermost nature by sinning against its own reconciliation with God and therefore against the unity in and through which it is constituted the people of God, the Body of Christ (Theology in Reconciliation p.22).

What Torrance is talking about here is not sin in a legal sense.  This sinning against its own reconciliation is not clearly seeing the implications of the Incarnation of God and the reconciling work that was achieved making One new Human Being out of the two and now are no longer hostile to each other and towards God.  Somewhere along the line, this sin is blinding us to the reality of Jesus Christ and our union to Him and each other.  There tends to be a move away from the unconditional love exercised by God Himself towards all humanity towards a conditional love set by the institutional church that is causing division in one way or another.  In reality, there is no justification whatsoever to exercise in any form of activity that build walls instead of walking across bridges that Christ has already built.

Eph. 2:13-22
But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 
For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The way of life of the church is markedly different to the way of life of the world.  In the world, people are in darkness to the accomplished work of Jesus Christ.  We look to the hallmarks of their darkness to see what it is that threatens our division.  There is disharmony and dissension everywhere for that is the nature of sin which is to divide and work against unity.  As we endeavour to follow after the pattern of a relational Triune God in our union to Him and each other the ways of world will do everything it can to bring its hostilities into the church.  It is evident with the divisions we have that there has been a certain degree of success.  The division within the church and the hostilities that often go with it have blinded many within her to Jesus Christ as well as the many who look to her as a witness to Jesus Christ.  With this division and infighting we lose sight of the overall goal of the church which is the salvation and renewal of all humanity.

If Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God then He is also the image of the visible church.  If Jesus Christ is the Head of the church then it is from Him the church draws from as the source of its life.  Each one of us are involved in denominations and/or ministries or maybe not involved at all but the Head of all of us is the same Jesus Christ who has included us all in His church.  The Christian life draws its way of humanity from the Humanity of Jesus Christ who is united to our humanity.  To be truly of the Spirit is also to be truly human according to His divine nature of which we share.  It is like swimming on the sea shore where the waves crash over us and carry on past us where we are powerless to stop it.  This is just like the love of God whose love flows from out of His innermost being towards us and we are powerless to stop it.  We can resist it but we can’t stop it, or we just go with the flow.  Therefore the core of the function of the church is grounded on the love that flows out of the being of the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us as rivers of living water.  No one other than Jesus Christ can mediate His love to us.  Jesus Christ is also Lord of His love.  If we truly believe the Word became flesh, then there is no other way to look at any human being other than in Christ, loved from deepest parts of God’s own being.  We love because He first loved us ( Ἡμεῖς  ἀγαπῶμεν,  ὅτι  αὐτὸς  πρῶτος  ἠγάπησεν  ἡμᾶς.)(1John 4:19), Love one another as I have loved you show it is Jesus Christ who loves, therefore we are loved so we go out to the world and love.  In doing so we are showing all they are loved just as we are loved.

If we truly understand we are loved then we truly understand that all those around us are loved in precisely the same way.  We are free to associate with anyone.  We are free to strengthen others in His love.  We are free to impart the knowledge of Him to those who do not know of His love.  We are free to count every single human being as our brother and sister declaring that the love of Jesus Christ is poured into their hearts.  This is without bringing in any form of condition, any denomination presupposition, any form of juridical process.  It is presenting the Person of Jesus Christ to all we meet.  It is to tell all the way things are and the true reality that resides in Jesus Christ who is in Himself the church built by living stones put together by His very own hands.