NASA, The Church and Unity of Purpose

“10, 9, 8, 7, 6,…”

We sat in our living room in front of the television waiting to see if we would witness a historic moment in our country. The weather report was cautiously hopeful that rain would not interfere again with the mission. Would it be a “go” or “no go”? The astronauts were strapped in and waiting for the ride of their lives. Making history is not something you do everyday. Their test flight would usher in a new era in manned space flight. The final countdown began, our hearts gripped with excitement, and history was in the making. NASA astronauts, Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken, successfully launched a new spacecraft, designed and built by the private sector, SpaceX, under the leadership of Elon Musk. This was a first for NASA, a partnership with a private company, but it will be the model for every future endeavor for space flight.

NASA Administrator, Jim Bridenstine, spoke with great hope for the future of America in space travel. He pointed back to the beginning of NASA with the first manned flight to the moon, the first moon landing with Neil Armstrong, and the struggles facing America during those days and years. Mr. Bridenstine remarked, “We look at the most divisive times in American history. We think about the Vietnam War, the 1960’s, not just the war but the protests. We think about the civil rights abuses and the civil rights protests, the very divisive challenging times…we have this moment in time where we can unite people again.”

We have missed the significance of this event. Days prior to the launch, a man named George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer. This is a moment in our history that has splintered apart the already fragile seams holding our country together. The protests began, rightfully so. Unfortunately the protests turned into riots which erupted into violence, and the looting and destruction of property. If only a space launch could unite us back together, but we have reacted to injustice, instead of thoughtfully and prayerfully responded.

Unity of Purpose

NASA and SpaceX could teach us about unity of purpose. How the public and private sector partnership worked together towards one goal. They each brought their unique gifts and abilities, diversity of backgrounds, men, and women to achieve a monumental ground-breaking accomplishment. It is a masterpiece of human ingenuity. 

America is rich with knowledge, desire, hard work, courage and inspiration. Is it enough to heal the deep divide and wounds of our nation? NASA showed us how good our country can be. They set lofty goals which included building a space station on the moon, sending more women into space, creating research projects, and ultimately bringing a shuttle to land on Mars. The skies are literally not the limit.

The divisions are real too. Our history is a story of liberty and slavery. The ideals set forward in the Constitution were stained not just with the blood of the Revolutionary War, but also with the evil of whips and chains. This is humanity. We see the highest highs and the lowest lows.

Unity in the Church

The church began under the oppression of the Roman government. The early church endured through persecution, poverty and injustices. It also endured through deep racial and socio-economic divisions. 

The church in Corinth was a church divided. The members were arrogant and self-centered. They took sides in the area of leadership, “What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ,” (1 Corinthians 1:10-12). Paul united them under Christ, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:13).

The members in Corinth took no account for those weaker in the faith. They used their freedom in Christ at the expense of the ones looking to them for leadership. Paul admonished them, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak,” (1 Cor. 8:9).

This church even used their spiritual gifts, gifts given by the Holy Spirit as an expression of grace for the building up of the church, to boast of themselves and to shame their brothers and sisters. Paul again calls to unity, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together,” (1 Cor. 12:25-26). What was meant to unite, instead was used to divide.

What did the Corinthian church fail to do? Love. The foundation for unity is love and humility. Paul beautifully draws a picture of the characteristics of Christ Jesus our Lord, our God, who is love. “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” (1 Cor. 13:4-7).

How Can America Be United?

I’ve seen several comments on social media mocking unity. It’s true that if we are seeking unity to avoid the conflict, then that is not unity. If we are calling out for unity without addressing the divide, then it will be unfruitful. Our country will never change. Unity is more than sameness, it is oneness. The church is composed of people of every nation, language, and tribe. We are uniquely different, but if the diversified church will rise up and be the unified church, “one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all,” (Ephesians 4:4-6), then we will build God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. That is what the world needs.

Church, we must lead the way. Protesting is important, but nothing changes as a result. There are many conversations to be had, there is no doubt. There are things to learn, and we must listen to one another. We need to listen, not shame or guilt each other. Changes are needed. Elections are important. Personal responsibility is lacking, and needs to be addressed in all churches and communities.

I agree with what Dr. Tony Evans said, “This is a defining moment for us as churches and citizens to decide whether we want to be one nation under God or a divided nation under God or a divided nation apart from God. If we don’t answer that question right and if we don’t answer it quickly, we won’t be much of a nation at all.”

Do you want to be unified as one nation under God? If so, what will you do today to take responsibility for your actions for the good of our nation and the glory of God?

Prayer

Father God, I give You praise. You are a God of righteousness and justice. We need You, Lord. We, as citizens of heaven in the country of America, have been sent by You to be Your ambassadors. This country is in a mess. I have heard many say we need to heal our country. It is folly to think we can do this on our own apart from You, Lord Jesus. Through Your death on the cross, You broke down the dividing wall of hostility that separated Jew and Gentile. Where there was once two groups, You made one body, whole and complete. The hostility that was between us, You put to death in Your own body on the cross. That is my prayer for America. Through your united church, You will put to death the hostility in our country. Father, may our unified purpose be to bring good news to the poor, comfort the brokenhearted, proclaim liberty to the captives, and opening the prison to those who are bound. May Your will be done, Your kingdom come, on earth as it is in heaven. In Jesus name, Amen.

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

Romans 12:18

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