“Jesus has determined that the kingdom would advance in a revolutionary manner. We would turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, love enemies, love brothers and sisters deeply from the heart, and do the impossible – “being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Phil. 2:2). This unity is so essential to the kingdom that Jesus prays for it with the knowledge that unity will be the living proof that he is the Messiah sent from God. He prayed, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23).” Ed Welch, Running Scared: fear, worry, and the God of rest

One of the many things that strikes me about Leslie Newbigin’s writings is the emphasis he places on unity in relation to the churches mission. I was not surprised, but nevertheless happy to see a similar emphasis by Welch in Running Scared. For Welch unity is essential to the kingdom that Jesus prays for, its essential to the churches witness of the kingdom.

What kind of unity you ask? A unity based on love, and one-anothering, based on shared purpose and kingdom partnerships. I don’t think there is enough emphasis on orthopraxy in the church today, particularly my own tradition is prone to severing bodies and disowning other theological traditions in praxiological ways. I say prone, not necessarily so, but open to the temptation and habit formation of severing oneself off from other kingdom members.

I was in a cafe a week or so back with another pastor in my tradition and denomination and he said that the main lines drawn in our tradition are between those who are more theologically oriented and those who are more praxiologically oriented. Now whether you bit on this, or wait for a more lively description to catch your eye I think there’s some truth to it. Heady types over look mercy on the way to cognitive perfection, while hearty types forget that meaningful social reconciliation must in the end of the day be focused upon spiritual resurrection of individuals. There is an anthropocentric tug to the redemptive story line, creation falls because humanity falls, and so on…

Some today are searching for a type of theological minimalism found in a idealic past or a missional utilitarianism. I don’t think theological minimalism is the answer, neither do I think social maximalism is either; the answer is wrapped up in King of the kingdom. Its found in our union with Christ as evidenced in John 17. The key to unity as being a part of the churches witness to the kingdom is found in the union she has with Christ. The Triune love between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit is the foundation for our own unity; they being many are one. Jesus prayer is really a missional prayer, a petition that the very unity which is evidence for the Kingdom’s reign in the life of the church ought to be manifested by the church in the world.

A world absence of real unity, absent of the love which binds God’s new people together, a love first given by the Father to the Son, and now exchanged continually from believer to believer to the world…

(Photographic art by Gva_JB, piece entitled “unity and variations, by night“)