Over the past two decades the subject of Christian unity has become a big issue in our country. With the dawn of the new South Africa many churches and denominations were forced, for the first time, to review their beliefs and confessions in this regard, leading to fierce debates in the media and elsewhere.
According to the apostle Paul, the basis of Christian unity has nothing to do with cultural similarities, an allegiance to the same creed or the desire for similar worship styles or liturgies.
Unity is not uniformity, in other words.
The basis of our unity is to be found in one place only, namely our participation in Jesus Christ. It is for this reason that Paul rebuked the Corinthians, earlier on in the very same letter, for their schisms and sectarian tendencies by asking one simple question: “Is Christ divided?” (1:13)
In chapter 11 Paul expands on this theme by referring to the fact that Christ broke the one bread and distributed the pieces amongst his followers, saying “this is my body”. He took our brokenness and disunity on him and in its place provided us with his unity and wholeness.
The implication of this divine transaction is quite clear: We each possess a portion of Christ, and unless we unite as believers and express our spiritual unity visibly, his image will remain invisible. In our unity he will be made manifest.
As John Michael Talbot reminds us in one of his songs: “Christ has no body here but yours.”