Christian unity is that unique grace of the Holy Spirit which allows believers from all ethnicities, nationalities, personalities, and backgrounds to be of one heart, mind, and spirit in our love for Jesus Christ and in our commitment to the gospel. When believers live in unity, it reveals the life-changing power of the gospel to a watching world.
Our unity is grounded in our understanding of the Kingdom of God. N.T. Wright links a believer’s understanding of the Kingdom to their revelation of the nature of Christ and his triumphant victory over every power and principality, both on the earth and under the earth:
[The Gospel writers] themselves, in telling the story of how God became king in and through Jesus, invite their readers to the imaginative leap of saying, ‘Suppose this is how God has done it? Suppose the world’s way of empire is all wrong? Suppose there’s a different way, and suppose that Jesus, in his life, death and resurrection, has brought it about?’
The Kingdom of God is what we call God’s reign in the world and in the lives of believers through the redeeming work of Jesus Christ and by the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit. Sanctification is where we grow into ever deeper understanding of the Kingdom of God, where Christ alone reigns and rules in the life and affections of those who call upon his name.
Jesus taught us to pray “Our father in heaven… your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). God’s kingdom “as it is in heaven” is brought to earth through the life, prayer, and circumstances of the believer. The Kingdom of God knows no limitation and is imparted to the life of every Christian.
At the same time, our theology about the Kingdom acknowledges the concept of “already” and “not yet.” Hebrews 2:8-9 reminds us that “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death.” In this passage, we have a “now” (Jesus has been crowned in glory as king), and the “not yet” (His kingdom is not yet of this world).
Similarly, 1 John 3:2 says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” Once again, we see the “now” (we are the children of God), and the “not yet” (we are not yet fully conformed to the image of Christ). We are already children of the King, but we are also “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The already and not yet is not meant to be taken passively on our part. Even as we await the fullness of the reign of Christ, we are to live into the change of the inner man or woman through living into the practices and Jesus Christ. We are asked daily to love those who slight and injure us, have compassion on those whom we know are needy, and to join our prayers and concerns for those we have never met and yet are united with through Christ himself. We are asked to take up the daily change of the Kingdom by making simple day to day decisions to put off the old and, with God’s help, to live into the new.
The main goal of ecumenism is to see Christ in the other and over time learn to recognize and trust other parts of the body of Christ. From this relational connection flows all the important work in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). Working through our theological understanding and difference (formal ecumenism), God can bring about the fruits of joint communion, healthy relationships, and joint works.
Likewise, our outreach to non-believers should be animated by missional ecumenism. This is expressed through the healing of injustices and prejudices between Christians, as well as in the varied expressions of Christ’s nature reflected in our works of justice, compassion, and mercy.
Kingdom Mission Society (KMS) seeks to equip and train Christians of all backgrounds, but especially Evangelicals and Pentecostals, in both formal and missional ecumenism. For this reason, we produce resources that help ground all of our work within the context of historic Christian understandings (whether Roman Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Churches of the East), thereby helping to orient Christians to a framework of present engagement. These going deeper resources remind us why and how Christians should engage in certain public works.
KMS also tries to provide practical ways for Christians of different backgrounds to pray, study, and take action together. We know that such practical experiences are necessary for any greater works of unity to take root. This forms the basis of our societies.