During the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. would speak of moving “from the who to the what.” Both after the murders of Freedom Riders: James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner in Mississippi and then after the beating death of Princeton Seminary student James Reeb in Alabama, King declared “it’s not so much who killed them but what killed them.” And “when we move from the who to the what, in a very real way we begin to see that we are all in this together.”
Of course the “what” was the underlying motive of hate and bigotry and disunity that permeated so much of the world-view of the day. A world-view which in many ways has yet to be overcome. In regard to unity among races and cultures as a whole we still have a very long way to go.
In the church we are called to unity in Christ. To be one in Jesus. We who are many and yet comprise one body through the Gospel are called to oneness. The Apostle Paul implores, “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to one hope when you were called – one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:3-6). Only God can bring this about. We are different in many, many ways. The call however is to unity, not uniformity. To “move from the who to the what.” That we would be united in spite of ourselves. In spite of our differences. Indeed we only truly know if we are united when we have differences. In many ways we have a long way to go. However we serve a God whose mercies are new every morning. A God who has revealed Himself as faithful throughout the history of mankind. And a God and who is at work in a wonderful way in the life of His people today.
We begin with the Gospel and we begin with grace. For when we begin to see ourselves in our need for God and in our need for His mercy, the playing field begins to be made level, and all pride is taken away. Only then will God begin to bring about unity.
Jesus on the night before the cross prays for Himself, His disciples, and then for us: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. 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 17:20b-23).
How is it that the world will believe and know the truth of God made manifest in Christ?
Only when they see unity and oneness in His people….
Glory to God!