Thoughts on Unity

I know, this is a blog about counseling – hang with me, and I’ll circle back. Because of how the inception of this blog happened, I feel like unity is a good topic to begin (again) with.

I grew up in a church that believed in unity – we believed in unity so much that we sometimes sacrificed truth to attain unity. In this legalistic group, we dressed the same, we looked the same, we talked the same and we all held the same values (except we secretly didn’t). So unity is a tough topic for me. The overarching message of my life has been “shut your mouth to preserve the unity”.

So I like to flippantly say “unity is not one of my values” – or at least that it falls way below telling the truth and standing true to my beliefs. I love the fact that we do not all look or sound the same at my church. I love the variety and color of the Body of Christ. I think any healthy church will be a cross-section of such a variety.

But of course, unity is one of my values, and must be, because it was important enough for Christ to expound upon on the evening of his death. But what does it mean that we all “be One”? How can my toe and my ear be one just because they are in one body? What exactly were Jesus’ own values about unity? He certainly did not believe in biting his tongue to preserve the peace or avoid conflict. He didn’t sugarcoat the truth in order to keep from hurting anyone’s feelings. But those who truly encountered him didn’t think “rabble-rouser” – they thought “love”.

But – and here’s where the counseling part comes back in – when we equate unity with the idea that in order to fit in – in order to be perceived as appropriately Christian – I have to say what everyone else is saying and be where everyone else is on the journey, I think we cause a great deal of unnecessary pain in the church.  In this environment it is an easy next step to “I have to hide my true self”.  If someone leaves a service thinking “everyone else has got this and I’m just messed up” then our incorrect view of unity – that we all have to be alike – has caused even further division.   Unity doesn’t mean we all have to agree on everything. There are many, many issues where two Christians can differ – read Romans 14 (preferably in The Message version) for context.

Folks, unity is love. It’s not feeling the same about issues. It’s not looking the same, or having the same jargon. It’s love. One place where you can find unconditional love that leads to healing is in the counseling office of a solid therapist – someone who can hear you and see you without any judgment or opinion about who you should be, but appreciate you for who you are and who you can become. Another place you could find it is in the Church, if we would all just drop the judgment and arm ourselves with love.

*Read my comment(s). My dear friend has agreed to give her non-therapist view of my crazy ideas to get the conversation started.  Jump in!*

 

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One thought on “Thoughts on Unity

  1. I have experienced acceptance, a raw and genuine acceptance in counseling unlike anything I’ve ever known before. Definitely, a process needed to occur in order to build trust in the therapy relationship. I tested the waters out initially, expecting to be judged. I was surprised to find no judgement. I believe judgement can be felt and heard. My perception may not always be accurate, but I’ve experienced it enough to be very wary of people. What an unexpected and wonderful surprise to be able to share my messed up self with another person, who loved me anyway. In fact the idea that I was messed up, was how I saw myself, not how my therapist viewed me at all.

    Labeling things right and wrong is something counseling turned upside down for me. Wait, what? Surely there is right and wrong? My thinking began to shift in this area. My experience is my experience, quit labeling it. What a concept. At least it has been for me.

    I have often wondered, looked for that familiar expression of judgement, or sarcasm in my therapists voice. I have not once seen or heard it. I have even said things like, please don’t think poorly or less of me because of something I’ve shared. The response has been consistently the same, “You will find no judgment here.” Doors began to fly open for me, healing happened. Acceptance is a powerful thing.

    How would this look in church? I think its hard to live this out. In my case, rebuke often came because others loved my daughters and saw the pain I was causing them. I knew the pain I was causing them, but judgement only contributed to my shame and guilt. As I shared, those things got worse and worse, so eventually I did hide. It seemed necessary to hide who I was.

    Can we invest in people, pour into their lives, know them, and allow them to be wherever they are in life without expectation? I’m certainly not saying regardless of behavior there should not be consequences. Consequences are part of the process. Nevertheless, can we love people anyway? Maybe if we stop labeling things right or wrong, seeing things in black or white, we could live this out better in church.

    It is so easy for me to judge another person whose struggle I do not share, and easier to accept someone whose struggle I understand. No one was able to help me stop drinking until I surrounded myself with a bunch of people in recovery. If enough people let their guard down and exposed their struggle in church, maybe healthy mentoring could take place.

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