If you are a regular reader of this blog you know that I am a runner, and I have been a runner for quite some time. One of the things people outside the running community don’t know is the importance of teams to the success of individual runners. It seems very odd that a sport that is built on the achievements of individuals has much use for the concept of a team, but in reality the team mentality is extremely important to runners. When I was in high school I ran on a highly state ranked cross country team in Citrus County, FL. We were good and consistently ranked number one in Florida. If you don’t know how it works, cross country scoring is pretty simple: you have seven varsity runners, the top five that cross the finish line are added together for a team score, the lowest score wins. For example the best possible score in cross country is 15…1+2+3+4+5… that’s if all five runners on a team crossing the line in succession. I’ve been on teams that have hit that mark. My senior year of high school, our team really was a team. We built each other up, we encouraged each other, we kept each other in line so we’d be eligible to run, we were a team. When the first runner finished a race he would come back and encourage the guys behind. Even though we each had to perform individually we were all there for the others. When one runner wasn’t doing well, a slower runner would run harder to make up for it. In a lot of ways that team transcended what high school boys are really capable of. So contrary to popular belief running is a team sport.
The same is true of our Christianity. It is a team activity. It cannot be done in isolation, and the faith and actions of one can affect the mentality of the whole. The Bible consistently tells people to preserve the unity of the church (Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 1:10ff, 2 Corinthians 13:11, Ephesians 4:3, Philippians 1:27, 1 Peter 3:8, etc.), and Jesus even prays that all Christians be one as He and the Father are one (John 10:16). The question is: how? I mean we are all so different, and let’s face it most of us are pretty much just looking out for ourselves. How do we work towards unity when we are all living individually? Well, I don’t have a magic position or perfect solution, but I think it comes down to a couple of things.
Philippians 2:3-4 gives a pretty good way to conduct ourselves,
“3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
If we have any hope of being unified, whether in our small groups, our local churches, or as Christians universally, we have to put this into practice. I’m not saying we accept sin or “lifestyles” or anything like this, but we have to remember that God is calling us to love our neighbors as ourselves and in so doing we exhibit our love for Him. In a similar vein, Paul in Romans 15:1-2 gives those of us who are more experienced Christians some pretty good advice as it relates to unity.
“Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, ‘How can I help?'” (The Message)
. People who are new to the faith still have a great deal to learn, they are still dealing with understanding the Bible, being faithfully committed to worship and prayer. Why to people that have been Christians for 10, 15, or 50 years expect people who have just converted to act or even understand the faith in the same way as they do? Unity starts with the maturity of those that have been around the Christian block a few times to help encourage and guide those that are new to this whole thing.
Most of all it is important to remember that Christianity is not an individual sport. It can’t be done in isolation from the church, and so there will inevitably be disagreements, misunderstandings, and the effects of sin, because we are all human. No one has it all together, no one has all the answers, and so we must be extremely humble when dealing with other believers. They have faults but so do you… and so do I. But if we all do the best we can to seek God’s glory first and look at each other with humility and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach us to care for one another then the impossible can be accomplished.