One in God"Oneness is a gift from God to value, nurture and protect."
The George Seurat masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago. The massive canvas covers an entire wall as one of the greatest works of the 19th century and a leading example of pointillist technique. Seurat juxtaposed millions of tiny hand-painted dots of color that, through optical blending, work together to create a single, vibrant image. Living in the Chicago area during my adolescent years, I had ample opportunity to marvel at how the multitude of little points, indiscernible from afar, come together to create a unity in diversity. As the Apostle Paul would say, “so it is with Christ” (1 Cor. 12:12 NRSV). The people of God together form a masterpiece. Though not all the same, we are one, designed by The Master to create a cohesive composition of His image.
The unity of believers is a central theme in Paul’s letters. His passion for renewed creation and reconciliation can be found in Galatians 3:28 NRSV: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” This statement directly confronted a culture and worldview where identity, value and influence were decided by ethnicity, class and gender.
God set out to create a new family where division and all barriers to equality could be overcome. God’s family consists of all those who are in Jesus Christ without differentiation. The oneness Christ brings is not merely a lack of hatred or opposition, or a tolerance of one another. Paul’s point is that, in Christ, there is no “other.” All those in Christ form a new entity, Christ’s body, His household, the church, who become God’s united witness to new life in Christ and partners in the rescue and renewal of all creation from the agony of evil and death. As such, believers and their relationships should reflect the new creation and their union through Christ and in the Spirit.
The nature of God as Trinity points us to the ideal for our relationships-—one God in perfect oneness, yet three persons. Throughout eternity, God has existed in community—the three persons in the Godhead are “undivided in essence and coequal in power and glory,” as stated in The Salvation Army’s third doctrine. The members of the Godhead exalt each other, commune with each another, cooperate and defer to one another. In reflecting God’s image, the body of Christ should then express the humility, servanthood, mutual submission and self-giving love seen in the Godhead. This goes beyond parts of the body relating to only those that are alike—only those that share common culture, interests, opinions or style of worship. Divine unity prevails when God’s people fulfill the collective call to conform their will to God’s will and the common mission to see God’s will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.
We share a dependence on God and identity in Christ. Yet we enrich the life of the Body with our splash of color brought to the whole masterpiece, each of us gifted to living out this infinitely creative identity in fresh and unique ways. As we open our hearts and yield to the Spirit’s work in our midst, the vibrant tapestry of colors infuses our lives with greater depth and texture.
In “Life of the Beloved,” Henri Nouwen writes: “The Spirit of God…is the Spirit that unites and makes whole. There is no clearer way to discern the presence of God’s Spirit than to identify moments of unification, healing, restoration. Wherever the Spirit works, divisions vanish and inner as well as outer unity manifests itself.”
Oneness is a gift from God to value, nurture and protect.
So may these lyrics be our benediction and song: “Up into you, our living head, let us in all things grow, till you have made us free indeed and faithful here below. Drawn by the lodestone of your love, let all our hearts unite; let us toward each other move, and move toward your light” (Charles Wesley).
Major Annalise Francis is administrator and corps officer for the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center. in Ashland, OH.