What does the Gospel have to do with Unity?
In Revelation 5:9, John sees the vision of the saints praising God and saying, “Worthy are you to take the scroll and open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Ransom: this is gospel language. Jesus bought people for himself.
“He who was rich became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9). This gospel isn’t just for a specific group of people—it’s available to everyone on earth. Every tribe. Every language. Every people.
What this should tell us is what Paul points out in Ephesians 4: since the gospel will unify people around the throne of God in heaven, it should bring unity here in the church. The gospel is visible in a church when there is unity. Disunity obscures the gospel because people elevate themselves above another—they look down on someone because of their economic state, or race—and every word they say about the gospel that makes peace between us and a holy God seems ridiculous if someone then harbors hatred against his brother.
The gospel is desperately needed in speaking into race in America today. We need to think about how the gospel affects how we engage in this conversation. Here’s how I think we should begin: with the admission that we don’t see everything correctly, even if what we see or think is believed by the majority in a culture. We need humility. We need to start by simply admitting that if we are white, we don’t know what it means to be black in America today.
The gospel-born fruit of unity begins with listening. Really listening. Listen when your African-American brother tells you about being pulled over for a busted taillight when he knows it’s not really out. Listen when parents worry every time their sons go out because of the color of their skin and their age and how they will be viewed. Listen when whole communities are devastated by drugs, and now full of men and women who are unable to be hired because of a felony on their record.
In this way, it really points to the last way the gospel should affect our humility towards one another. Ephesians 4:1–2 says, “I urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Paul writes in Philippians 2:5–8, “Have this attitude in yourselves. . . who. . . became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” We serve at cost to ourselves. But we serve with humility.
Humility opens doors to great joy.