It can seem strange to question and particularly fear the unity of disparate people, but that is what is happening here. Jew and Gentile united in a single faith. The Jew and Gentile outside that faith assaulted it.
Unity is a great thing. The church is supposed to be a place of unity. Yet, the church also remains the most divided. It is divided by culture, nation, skin color, money, location and many other reasons.
Yet, the “obvious” division isn't all bad. Really. If we didn't have divisions, well, there would be one pastor…one…for everyone. Already, we know that wouldn't work.
Some sociologists state that our effective relational capacity is approximately 100. This “tribal” view of humanity would certainly explain much of what each of us experience in life. It also explains the church.
In many regards, the divisions that we see in the world are not that surprising. As the ability to connect the whole world in real-time expands and becomes embedded in our lives, we are all experiencing the stress of a “tribal” size beyond our capacity to deal with and understand.
This does not spare us the responsibility to learn and understand. The “tribal” concept may be about to be turned upside down.
The church of Iconium, for example, broke the “tribal” boundaries. The tribal-breaking church remains the world's greatest hope. It is this that makes the divided church so painful.
The world needs an enemy. Tribes need enemies. The enemies may not be ones of warfare. They may be economic or cultural or something else.
The church is called to cross enemy lines not to defeat the enemy, but to reconcile the enemy, so that there are no more enemies.
- Which “tribal” identities do you identify with?
- Which “tribal” identities do you struggle most with?
- How do you think the early church overcame “tribal” identities?
Lord, grant us the wisdom and grace to follow the example of your servant Paul along with the first churches, that we can truly be the witnesses to the world of your great love. Amen.
Ian is an ordained elder in the Church of the Nazarene, and is currently Co-Lead Pastor at Enumclaw Nazarene Church in Enumclaw, WA, USA.
He has previously served as Online Campus Pastor at Generations Community Church in Marysville, WA, USA; Associate Pastor at Snohomish Church of the Nazarene; College and Young Adult Pastor at Moscow Church of the Nazarene in Moscow, ID, USA.
Ian also writes at Starlyth.info (personal) and Nazarene.Digital (On Digital Transformation of the Church)