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02/18/2004: "What unity means"

I went to a dinner party on Friday with some friends from Church. Yesterday, one of the people from the party told me that I had said something profound and asked me if I could write it down for them. I don't know if it is profound or not, but if they think it is worthy of repeating, then it definitely belongs on the blog, since most of the stuff here isn't worthy of repetition.

As a precursor, we were talking about the Unity of Christianity. Someone had asked if Christ would be disappointed with us if He came down and saw how we were evangelizing (we were speaking of the churches that send out mailers or have banners that say things like: come and have FREE Crispy Cream donuts). I initially responded that I didn't think Christ would be overly disappointed in things like that, but that He would EXTREMELY disappointed in the lack of Unity in the Church (Protestants vs. Catholics vs. Orthodox vs. etc). Most agreed but one person asked, if the Church has ever been unified. Hasn't there always been conflict in the Church? That's were my supposedly profound statement comes in:


I think we often misunderstand what Unity means. Unity is not about always being exactly of the same mind. Unity is about refusing to walk away and be disunified. It's like a marriage. Is every day of a marriage a continual argument-free bliss-filled existence? Of course not! What makes a marriage continue to succeed is not the lack of disagreements, but the refusal to walk away from the table. We insist on coming back even when we are hurt or feel like walking away. A marriage ends when we finally walk away.

The same is true of our faith life and of the Unity of The Church. We are unified when we insist on being the One Body of Christ. This doesn't mean we won't disagree. What it means is that we keep coming back to the table to be Unified. An example of this insistence is from the Acts of the Apostles. When St. Paul is unhappy with the teachings of St. Peter and the others in Jerusalem regarding circumcision, he walks half way across the Roman Empire to discuss the matter and come to resolution. It would have been far easier for Paul to disregard the community in Jerusalem. His communities were thriving and would eventually become the backbone of the Catholic Church. But he was unwilling to walk away. He insisted on being unified and he was willing to go to extreme lengths to ensure that Unity be the cornerstone of the Christian Faith.


That's the end of the purportedly profound statement. After taking the time to write it down, I have one further thing to add: May God have mercy on all of us, Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox, who have walked away from the table. May His guidance bring us back into full communion with one another to become One Holy catholic and Apostolic Church.



Replies: 1 Comment

Paul :

I am a Protestant and I remember being surprised when I asked a Catholic friend what Catholics believed "made a Chrtstian." He pointed to the wall in his cube at work to the Nicean (sp?) creed that he had hanging on his wall. All he said was "That." I will never forget that, because it forever changed my view of Catholics. I realized at that point that there may be theological differences between the two of us, but we are still "brothers in Christ."

Since that time, my friendship with this man has grown immensly. I have begun to see into the heart of the Catholic church and what it really strives to do. Sometimes, throughout history, it gets things wrong, but no more than my own particular flavor of Christianity gets things wrong. But, its not about being right all the time, its about striving to be conformed to the image of Christ.

My wife has had a more difficult time accepting Catholics as Christians. This particular friend hasn't been an issue, but more the general case. This is in large part, I believe, due to her several years of childhood spent in Southern Germany. Being Catholic there (according to my wife and in-laws) is more like being a Republican or Democrat is here. As such, it is a cultural thing, not an issue of the heart. BUT, America has the same issue with its Protestant mindset. While in college, I asked a friend if he was a Christian. He responded by saying "Of course, I'm American." I was so blown away by that response, that I didn't even know what to say. I was literally speechless.

Because of these cultural stuggles, where if the Religion is so ingrained into the society that one thinks that one is a Chrsitian because "I am American" I find myself beginning to think that all of these moral issues coming up recently aren't such a bad thing. The fire is starting to get turned up, and soon, some "Christians" whether Protestant or Catholic, will begin jumping out of the pot. I am of the belief that more of them will be Protestant simply for the fact that the Catholic church doesn't bend its morality depending on the direction of the wind; You can, however find a Protestant church that is pastored by a lesbian couple (as my Uncles "church" is), or any other vitcim of the moral war.

I think that was longer than the original post,
Paul

02.18.04 @ 11:45 AM PST

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