Balance in Unity

Riding Through the Light, Canon Beach, Oregon, Taken by Barry Cosme, Copyright (c) 2012, All Rights Reserved

In reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship, he speaks of the unity of faith and obedience.  He says, “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes” ( ibid. Kindle location 890).  Obviously, this works into the debate between the faith and works as the source of salvation.  Works (external action) without faith (internal belief) are empty (without true meaning) and mechanical.  Yet, faith without works is a lie, an illusionary mental construct that refuses to extend beyond the “self”.

Bonhoeffer talks about taking the first step, performing some action of which we are capable, with the intention of seeking faith.  He says, “we can only take this step aright if we fix our eyes not on the work we do, but on the word with which Jesus calls us to do it” (ibid. location 932).  It seems clear that this should be the motivation for all my actions.

He envisions Jesus telling us, “First obey, perform the external work, renounce your attachments, give up the obstacles which separate you from the will of God. Do not say you have not got faith. You will not have it so long as you persist in disobedience and refuse to take the first step. Neither must you say that you have faith, and therefore there is no need for you to take the first step. You have not got faith so long as and because you will not take the first step but become hardened in your unbelief under the guise of humble faith” (ibid. locations 948-952).

When we refuse the will of God, we are disobedient.  This is just as true when we try to justify our inaction by professing a lack of faith or even that we have no precise understanding of God’s will.  We fail to understand God’s will when we consciously or unconsciously refuse to attempt the good works we instinctively know are required of us.  We also fail when we are focused upon physical things, worldly circumstances, actions and experiences; refusing to focus instead upon Love, Unity and Spirit. Such refusals are central to the ego, the small self that sees itself as essentially separate from God, from humanity and from the universe.  This is true to such a degree because refusal to be inclusive is central to separation and central to the separation inherent in dualities like: internal and external; spiritual and physical; love and fear; and God and self.

The word religion comes from “re” meaning again and “ligare” meaning to bind (see Online Etymology Dictionary).  In my usage, I have blended the two roots of the word.  I have used “re” from the ancient etymology and blended it with “religare” from the more modern etymology.  Ligare is also the root of the word ligament, the connective tissue that binds together bone to bone or bone to muscle.  I believe this etymology is helpful in understanding the role of religion to bind All (God, humanity, creation) back together again.  Thus the purpose of Christianity, of obediently and faithfully following Christ, is Unity.  As Christ was one with the Father and the Spirit, we are called to this Unity through Him (Christ).

In 1 Thessalonians Paul advises the church about Christian Living saying, “Rejoice at all times.  Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in every circumstance, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.…” (5:16-18).  By rejoicing about life, by constantly seeking to be close to Spirit, and by thankfulness, we learn, Joy, Unity, gratitude and Love.  If this is academic, it is almost unless.  It is in the interplay between action and faith, lived out in this way that we understand the power of the early Church in changing lives, developing faith and gaining the strength to truly become a Christian, a person who genuinely follows Jesus.