This week, Carolyn and I began watching the second season of The Chosen. You’ve probably heard me talk about this show before. I would testify with confidence that it’s the best Christian media I’ve seen. Not that it’s a subjective judgment or anything! The first episode of the second season is bookended by a scene of John, decades after the Gospel events, beginning to write his Gospel. And there was something about this scene and the way it was shot that evoked an emotion deep inside of me. (This isn’t uncommon. I think I’ve cried in just about every episode of the show). If I could name it, here’s what it was: a sense that this is my people. This is my faith. Thousands of years apart, with a myriad of cultural differences, speaking a different language, from a completely different ethnic background, and with very different life experiences, I am connected to this. John and I share an identity, we share a purpose, we share a mission, we share a fundamentally common view of the world. We are bonded together across the generations.
As I write that, I realize that what this show does to evoke that is to portray the very human reality of the Gospel events. The disciples were real people with real issues and questions and needs. They had idiosyncrasies. They had conflicts. They had things that made them smile and things that made them mad. And Jesus, fully God and yet fully human, entered into all of this. He laughed, he cried, he worked with his hands, ate meals, and so on. We see the Gospels as sacred, Holy Spirit-inspired literature. And we should, because they are. But sometimes we think it means these characters were somehow unlike us. The Chosen is one way of breaking that false image down and helping us relate to these first followers of Jesus.
Back to the main point: my “aha” moment about the beautiful bond of unity I share with someone like the apostle John. It reminds me of what Paul wrote in Ephesians 4:3: “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Notice that Paul does not tell us to establish the unity of the Spirit. He does not tell us to work up to it or achieve it. It’s something we are to keep. It’s something that has already been established by the Spirit. Those who are in Christ are united by the Spirit. That’s just the way it is. Across generations and cultures and languages, we are united by the Spirit. I am united to Paul and to John and to Augustine and to Spurgeon and to you, and we are all together united to Christ, all by the Holy Spirit. But if there is a command to maintain this unity, it must also be possible to break it. When we depart from the faith that has been handed down to us, when we allow division to take root over things that are not primary or essential to the Gospel, when we persist in living in ways contrary to God’s revealed will, we have broken the unity of the Spirit.
Here is our desire as a church. Whatever we have said as leadership about various things to do with the pandemic, this has been our underlying desire: to maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. We want everyone to understand that we may have differences of opinion about things, we have our idiosyncrasies and our particular concerns, we have things that make us laugh and make us mad. We have conflicts and disagreements. We are humans, after all. But at the core, if we are followers of Jesus, we have the same purpose, the same mission, the same identity, we have the same fundamentally common view of the world. And so we seek to be at peace with one another. To love one another. We strive to maintain the unity that God Himself has established through Christ.