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Theology for Christian Unity

February 22, 2008

 

Theology for Christian Unity Print E-mail
Justino Perez-Ojeda and Zaida Rivera-Rivera - Mexico

A presentation for the Catholic seminary in Guadalajara, MX.

Theology for Christian Unity
Reflection for the 8-day prayer for the unity of all Christians

Introduction

Theology unity and theology for the Christian unity are different concepts.  We have seen through the last 100 years that the unity has taken more time than expected.  But I think is possible to talk about theology of unity today.  In order to discover what we have in common, we can keep looking for new places to continue praying together, and we can expand the hope of more theological dialogues.

The fact that we have reached 100 years is a positive indicator.  However, we have to recognize that some paths are now closed.  This is our reality in Brazil.  But we see that others have opened, as in Mexico and Puerto Rico.  God is challenging us to open new roads for every closed one.

Foundations for the Christian Unity Theology

We find many sources of theological inspiration in the tradition of the church, in some theologians, and teachers to discuss theology of unity.  In this occasion, we will use the same source that tradition and theologians have used.  I want to consider at least two indispensable elements.  First, Jesus Christ; it is not possible to talk about Christian unity without having Him as a primary reference.  Second, it would be unacceptable not to use the Bible to point some ideas about a Christian unity theology.

As we know, John and Paul are the most comprehensive exponents of a Christian theology.  We have some testimonies from them in the Bible that talk about Christian unity.  Some of us call this unity today "ecumenism". 

This prayer that John shares with us in John 17:23 is one of those testimonies.  "I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." Notice that Jesus uses various components in His prayer; he prays for the unity of the Christians, he prays for the unity of Christians with Him, and He also prays for His unity with the Father ("and You in Me")

Jesus also prays for the world, and its eternal love of God in His own person, the person of Jesus Christ, "and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me." It is impressive to see how pleased Jesus is with his Father's love, but it is more admirable to see how he desires that humanity experiences this love.  The unity between Jesus and the Father is such that they fuse in this purpose.  Now Jesus is asking the Father that, as a consequence that unity shared by them (father-son), the same results would be seen in His followers.  First, the Father asks the Son to give his life for the love of humanity, now the Son asks the Father that His sacrifice harvests fruit.  For this to happen, Jesus appeals at the essential, the unity of him and the Father.  Without that unity, the unity of the body of Christ would not exist.   

The other testimony is Paul.  In most of his scriptures, Paul is very ample working the Christian unity theme.  This is because from the beginning of the development of the church, in the first century some differences arose between Christians proceeding from Judaism and those proceeding from the gentile community.    Paul, who was raised as a Hebrew citizen, understands the social, cultural, and religious tensions between both communities.

With this background and with his conversion to Christianity, the apostle makes extraordinary contributions to the Christian unity theme.

According to Paul, as a consequence of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection all the walls that separated humanity were reconciled in Christ.  This included social, ethnic, gender, and especially religious walls.  According to Paul, through Christ we were reconciled with God and among each other, and we were justified from all our sin and sanctified for every good work.  All of this was achieved by sacrificial love that comes as a unique offering for humanity redemption.  This way, through Christ, the God of all nations and races created one nation.

What we should learn and practice

To confess that we are Christians and at the same time recognize that we are not the only Christians.

The same way that God is only one, but diverse in manifestation without losing unity and communion with the Son and the Holy Spirit, He invites us to have communion and unity in diversity.  The theology of unity does not work with reduction of unification or uniformity; it works for the communion and freedom, supreme values of the evangelism.  (Joseph Ratzinger, actual Pope Benedict XVI, works this theme very well on his book, "The God of the Christians".)

The same way that every human is spirit, soul, and body without losing integrity, our differences should not be reason for fights, jealousy, competition; but the best reason to attract each other.

Before speaking about tolerance, we should begin to respect and admire others, the same way that as we express and reflect the same image and likeness as God.

Every human passion that separates us should be brought to the cross of Christ for treatment, reconciliation, and baptism of love.

We should not confuse communion with reunion, we can meet many times and not have communion.  But when we have communion, nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Communion is a fruit of the spirit.

To achieve communion we have to quit all power and glory.  If you don't do this, we would be stealing the place that only belongs to God, because the whole power and glory is His.

Being humble is the only way to reach heaven's kingdom.  I pray that God illumine us in this ecumenical path. 

Amen!

Rev. Justino Pérez Ojeda

Justino Perez-Ojeda and Zaida Rivera-Rivera are missionaries serving with the Christian Congregational Churches of Mexico, the Alliance of Evangelical Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) of Mexico (AICEDCAR) and the Fraternity of Evangelical Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ) of Mexico. Justino is administered in the country by the Christian Congregational Churches of Mexico.  He serves as a consultant for the Mission Development Program.  Zaida serves as a consultant for the Mission Development Program.



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