Summary: Receiving the gifts of oneness means that we love one leader and commit to one calling. Those things are not the same as having doctrinal agreement or being socially compatible.
This week I met a young man who was very clear about what he needed. He came here to the church to participate in a wedding rehearsal. We began to talk about weddings. He expressed the hope that this wedding would not be like the last wedding he had attended. In that earlier wedding, he had been an usher; but he knew no one other that the groom. After the service, when everyone got to the reception, they told him he was not on the master list for a seat at the tables. That surprised him, but he was sure that not only did he have a seat, but that, as an usher, he would even be at the head table. So he went to the wedding coordinator to claim his place. He told me that the coordinator looked him up and down, consulted his lists, whispered to the groom, and finally pronounced the verdict, “There is no place for you. I’m sorry, but you are not invited.”
The young man told me that he spent the rest of the evening wandering about, grazing for hors d’oeuvres, and trying to find some place just to fit in. He admitted that he finally left, dissolved in tears.
It hurts when there is no way to fit in. It’s painful when others are experiencing oneness, and you can’t have it. It’s agonizing when the message comes down, sometimes spoken, sometimes silent, that you don’t belong. You don’t fit in. You are not invited. That really hurts.
Oh, there are some times and place where fitting in doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if you are on a Metro car. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be included in other people’s conversations on the Metro! I want to be left alone. If all I’m doing is taking a ride somewhere, I don’t need to get involved with anyone else. I don’t need to fit in.
Fitting in doesn’t matter if you are at some public event like a game or a concert. Who is next to me and whether they speak to me is completely immaterial. I’m there for the show. I’m there for the entertainment. I don’t need my neighbor’s life story, and I don’t intend to inflict mine on him. I’m there for the show, and oneness is beside the point. Fitting in is an unnecessary luxury.
But if you intend to do something more than take a ride or watch the show, it is vital to find oneness with the others around you. If you intend to do something more than take a ride or watch the show, it is crucial to know that you belong, to see that you fit in, to have a place at the table.
God wants to give his children the gift of oneness. God wants us as the body of Christ to have the gift of unity. He is eager to give it! It’s not a matter of looking for it or working to make it happen. It’s a matter of accepting the gift.
Once I gave a friend a gift – a little book that I thought would address something he was dealing with. My friend took the carefully wrapped package from my hand, gave it a once-over, mumbled a hurried “thank you”, and pitched it over on a shelf. Two weeks later, when I visited his office again, my gift was still there, on that shelf, unopened. I took that to mean that it was also unappreciated. I gave the gift, but he did not really receive the gift. So can you guess what I did? When I was ready to leave that day, I just slipped over, picked up the package, and went on my way. I took it back. A gift given but not received is no gift at all. And the giver may just decide to take it back.
When I read the New Testament, I read that God has given the church the gift of oneness. God has gifted us with oneness. It is not something to work for; it is not something we earn. It is a gift. We don’t will ourselves into oneness. We just receive it. We don’t craft oneness out of our own resources. We just open the gift that God has given. The danger is that we may leave it unopened. The danger is that we may not even know that there is a place at the table for each of us. But there is. The gift of God to His church is the gift of oneness. And every member has the capacity to receive that gift.
There are just two things we need to know about the gift of oneness: that oneness is defined by loving one leader, and that oneness is expressed by commitment to one calling. Oneness comes from loving one leader and from commitment to one calling. Nothing else. Nothing more. One leader and one calling.