Unity of Faith
“As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” - John 17: 21-23 (NRSV)
“Revival is coming!” and “A third wave is approaching!” are phrases that float through the atmosphere of the Charismatic world on a regular basis. At their very best, they give hope and sustain vision for the body of Christ. At their worst, they are vague pronouncements that leave people disillusioned with incoherent lingo and craving for something assured and certain.
Some people seem to be aware that a wave is coming, but nobody seems to know what that will look like while others offer detailed accounts about it. I’m largely apathetic to those phrases either way, but I’d like to offer my own take on what I think a third wave or revival would look like… and dare I say it, should look like.
There was a Unity in Christ panel hosted at CTF this past week that brought together a number of speakers from various branches of our Faith. John Arnott represented the Charismatic Evangelicals (a definition he acknowledged is quite broadly defined.) Matteo Calisi and Franciscan Fr. Dimitri Sala represented the Catholics (who. I might add, are very charismatic.) Fr. Timothy Cremeens of the Orthodox Church in America was also there representing an Eastern Orthodox voice on matters of unity.
When talking about “unity” it becomes clear that institutional or organizational unity is not likely to occur in our lifetime based on the current state of Christendom. Those who throw their hands up in the air like they just don’t care are usually suspicious and highly against this sort of unity (on both sides of the camp.)
What was conversed about at this panel, however, was the heart for a unity of the Spirit, relationships and perhaps even a basic theological unity on who each of our traditions says Jesus is and what we say the Gospel is. It seems that this sort of unity is attainable, or at least honourable to pursue if we are to take John 17:20 seriously.
If Jesus is our highest common denominator, then we can work with this. How one understands the “mysteries” or the “sacraments” or institutional authority structures is important, but not necessary to agree upon in order to pursue this kind of unity.
Fr. Timothy and Dimitri were discussing with me over dinner how there seems to be a lethargy in both the Catholic and Orthodox worlds for believers to be reconciliatory. The attitude almost becomes prideful and arrogant, as if other Christians should be drawn to their tradition, which, is the “One True and Holy Apostolic Faith.” While there are solid arguments to support declarations like this… the issue becomes one of the heart. What I mean by this is, believers don’t seem to have their hearts broken over the disunity and fragmentation within the Body of Christ (which is different from diversity, let’s not confuse the two.)
Fr. Dimitri and Timothy suggested that every Christian ought to have a heart that weeps for the disunity amongst us, while praying for unity and being reconciliatory where possible.
It is on this point that I was broken.
It was humbling for me to see a Catholic and Orthodox priest speak for this desire alongside John Arnott.
The prayer of Jesus is that we may be one, as He is one with the Father and Spirit, so that the world would know Him by our love for one another. Our witness is lacking without this manifestation.
Charismatic Evangelicals are a ship (albeit a big one) riding waves of revival around the world but should never forget that their roots can be traced back to the shipbuilding harbors of Catholic Orthodoxy, where the Spirit first breathed His life into our brothers and sisters in those earliest Christian communities and continues to do so today.
We Charismatics are not the only Light bearing Christians in the world. If there is to be any sort of prayers for revival, my heart is that those prayers would be for a revival of unity and reconciliation so that we may work towards becoming one.
I want to commend John Arnott and others like those in the panel discussion yesterday for embracing one another and even getting together to talk about what they have in common and how they can possibly move forward and work together (despite the very real barriers.)
My own inkling is that people need to pray for and pursue reconciliation.
If there is a third wave or some new revival, I hope this is it. I would way rather see Christians becoming reconciled and working together rather than gold dust or angel feathers floating about in meetings.
To me, that is a greater miracle – the miracle of unity and the experience of the Holy Spirit binding us together like living stones.
Charismatics have an opportunity to build on their revelation of the Father’s heart and embrace the sobering awareness that they still function like orphans (the orphan spirit) by not having a heart for unity and reconciliation. I believe it’s possible to pursue unity without having to “Come home to Rome or Constantinople.”
I’m no seer, but I would hate to miss opportunities for unity and reconciliation because my own pride, arrogance and perhaps ignorance prevent it from happening...
If you’re waiting for Gnostic waves of revival to roll in, you might miss out on an international opportunity to join with other believers on other ships who are trying to share the Gospel with the world. Ships, I might add… that have caught the wind of the Holy Spirit.