If you are a “boomer” or older, you will remember that report cards in elementary school included grades for both academics and citizenship. Citizenship evaluated behavioral qualities including work habits, courtesy, respect for authority, honesty, cheerfulness, promptness, and reliability. The Public School System reflected the social value that being a “citizen” of a community carried with it behavioral responsibilities.
Membership in Christ’s community includes behavioral citizenship responsibilities as well. The New Testament provides abundant instruction for the citizen conduct or behaviors that are to characterize how members of the family of God are to conduct themselves toward one another. In fact, they are most easily identified as “One Another” statements. Consider these examples:
John 13:34 – A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.
Romans 12:10 – Be devoted to one another with mutual affection. Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12:16 – Live in harmony with one another.
1 Corinthians 1:10 – I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.
Galatians 5:13 – Serve one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2 – Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:32 – Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 5:21 – Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Thessalonians 5:15 – Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
James 4:11 – Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another
1 Peter 3:8 – Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 4:8 – Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.
1 Peter 4:9 – Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.
Love, honor, harmony, unity, service, humility, compassion, forgiveness, submission, and kindness – these behaviors are to characterize how Christ’s followers treat one another. And allow me to remind you, these commands of Christian Citizenship are not simply given to a local congregation to be exclusively exercised in the context of their fellowship. These commands are consistently addressed to the Church of the City – the collective Body of Christ throughout the community or region.
“To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints” – Rom 1:7
“To the church of God that is in Corinth” – 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor. 1:1
“To the churches of Galatia” (region) – Gal 1:2
To the saints who are in Ephesus” – Eph. 1:1
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” – Phil 1:1
“To the saints and faithful brothers in Christ at Colossae” – Col 1:2
“To the church of the Thessalonians” –1 & 2 Thess. 1:1
Let’s be honest, maintaining harmonious relationships is hard work. Anyone who is married can testify to the effort required to keep a marriage relationship vibrantly healthy. If you have adult siblings you know how easy it is to allow busy-ness, lack of communication, or personal offenses to create isolation that can easily result in relational distance.
Exhibiting love, unity, harmony, and forgiveness in the Body of Christ throughout a community would be difficult work … but Jesus commands it. Our Lord, our Master commands us to love one another, in all the expressions of what that means, just as he loves us. That means every pastor, elder, deacon and ministry leader is to be a vocal advocate and behavioral example of pursuing the unity of God’s people in their city.
It is not my intention to be critical of pastoral leadership. I have been engaged in pastoral ministry for over 30 years. I have sat in that chair. I know the challenge of nurturing and maintaining unity within a local fellowship, let alone nurturing unity among the Church of the city. There are theological distinctives, denominational traditions, worship preferences and Holy Spirit convictions that can easily derail relational solidarity. We simply can’t escape the fact that nowhere in scripture are we given permission to politely isolate ourselves from brothers and sisters in Christ who hold different views than we do. To do so is simply and plainly sin. We need to repent for allowing the cultural, traditional, and denominational norms we have grown up with, to blind us from the clear imperative of scripture. We are to love one another to the point of being willing to die for one another – “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers” (1 John 3:16).
God’s spirit is reawakening his people, in our era, to their essential identity as members of Christ’s body and their undeniable responsibility to love one another as he has loved us. Movements of unity, not simply compromise, but of genuine love and devotion between followers of Jesus are surfacing across our nation and around the world. Movement Day, a ministry based in New York City, reports movements of Christian marketplace, non profit, and church leaders coming together to transform their city in New York City, Charlotte, Dallas, Phoenix, Seattle, Philadelphia, Hong Kong, The United Kingdom, and South Africa. In fact, Movement Day is convening 300 leaders from 100 strategic cities around the world in Washington D.C. in November 2018, who are committed to advancing the Gospel by unifying the church.
As you read these words you may find the Spirit of God rising up within you with a holy affirmation of “Yes … this is what the Body of Christ is meant to be!” Be encouraged, there are likely brothers and sisters in your community who are experiencing this same prompting of the Spirit and are looking to connect with other like-minded citizens in Christ’s community to strengthen the spiritual vitality and visible unity of the Church in your city.
What can you do? Some suggested steps:
- Share this article with your fellowship circle – read it, talk about it, and discuss the implications.
- Begin meeting and praying with Christian friends from other church families who share your vision for the unity of the body of Christ.
- Pray for your local church leadership. One of Satan’s classic strategies has been to hinder and harass church leadership. Prepare the soil of their hearts with intercession. The last thing Satan wants is a city full of pastors who are enthusiastically devoted to the unity of the Church of the city. The enemy knows that the result would be an unprecedented evangelistic harvest and revival!
- When appropriate, respectfully and humbly share your growing convictions with your pastor and local church leadership.
- Encourage your pastors to build relationships of trust with ministry leaders from other local churches. Encourage them to begin regularly praying with other ministry leaders for the vitality and unity of the Church of your city.
The mission of City Church Unite is to unite the Church to transform the city. By God’s grace CCU, along with other partner ministries, will be used as a catalyst for helping pastors and churches pursue the unity of the Body of Christ in their community. How can we serve you? Feel free to contact CCU using the form below. – Tracy Weaver