The Unity of the Spirit in the Bond of Peace
One of the most common complaints that people have about Christians throughout the world is the disunity and division that are so common among Churches today. The numbers here are truly staggering. Our Lord Jesus Christ founded one Church as his one Body, united by the one Holy Spirit. Despite this unity that is at the center of our faith, divisions among Christians only continue to increase.
Today, there are over 35,000 denominations within the Protestant world. This number continues to grow every year as divisions increase and groups splinter off from one another. You can see in this trend a clear failure to live up to the appeal that St. Paul gave to the people of Corinth when he saw division there: "That there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment," (1 Cor. 1:10).
As Orthodox Christians, can we provide a better example of the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3) that is our calling in Christ? One aspect of our faith that we consistently emphasize is our direct, unbroken continuity with the one Church that Jesus Christ founded. And yet, even within the one Body of Christ, we often find examples of disunity.
Orthodox Churches are commonly criticized for placing too much emphasis on ethnicity at the expense of a broad unity in the faith. This is why, even in America, we have not one Orthodox Church, but twelve, divided largely along ethnic lines! Of course, these twelve jurisdictions are united in the one Body of Christ, but the division is nonetheless scandalous. Many visitors to Orthodox Churches have reported feeling unwelcome because they were not of the ethnicity of that parish. We have forgotten that in Christ, ethnic and national divisions have passed away, and that now "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus," (Gal. 3:28).
In today's Epistle reading, St. Paul calls us to "lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called," (Eph. 4:1). What is our calling as Christians? To express the unity that comes from the united life of the Holy Trinity, as Jesus Christ prayed to his Father for us, "that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you," (John 17:21).
Nothing is so characteristically unchristian as the existence of divisions and discord within the Body of Christ. Therefore, let us make it our priority to work toward the healing of all division. Let us take the initiative to work toward living out our calling in "one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all," (Eph. 4:5).