Centrifugal Sin & Church Unity
Human beings were made for each other.
“It is not good for man to be alone” from Genesis is not first an indication of the need for romantic love, but a basic teaching about the nature of human beings: we were made for each other. Like many other aspects of human life, this is distorted by sin; we are made for one another, but sin urges us a) towards unhealthy relationships (to adultery and lust, to using people as objects rather than treating them as sisters and brothers) and b) to dissolve relationships and attempt to live without others. Sin, in a well-worn sermon illustration, distorts both our vertical (with God) and our horizontal (with others) relationships.
John Stott, in his classic little work Basic Christianity, observes:
The tendency of sin is centrifugal. It pulls us out of harmony with our neighbors. It estranges us not only from our maker but from our fellow-creatures too. We all know from experience how a community, whether a college, a hospital, a factory or an office, can become a hotbed of jealousy and animosity. We find it very difficult to ‘dwell together in unity’. But God’s plan is to reconcile us to each other as well as to himself. So he does not save independent, unconnected individuals in isolation from one another, he is calling out a people for his own possession. (102)
Another evangelical Brit, John Wesley considered “social holiness” an essential of Christian faith. This is not, how it is often misunderstood, about social action – he certainly emphasized that, but called it something else – but about pursuing full sanctification in accountable small groups. The early Methodists knew that disciples grew best not as single potted plants, but as part of a well-tended garden.
To put it simply:
The Spirit draws us together.
Sin drives us apart.
Take a look around at the church and at our world. Which one is winning?