As I was thinking about this unity in Christ, I was again reminded of how often we get appeals from the religious among us for unity at any cost, "unity" that is based in error. True unity is based on the Word of God, both the Only Begotten Son who is the living and reigning King as well as the revelation of the Son preserved for us in the written Word of God, the Bible. Knowing the Bible without knowing the Son is lifeless, empty theological intellectualism dressed up as piety. Trying to know the Son without likewise knowing and submitting to the Bible is the source of most aberrant teachings that have plagued the church for centuries.
Ultimately, until we abandon the ecclesiastical model that pits one group of Christians against all others we will continue to see a church that resembles a field of corn with shallow roots and a short life expectancy rather than a venerable olive tree.
We seen an image of God's covenant people, especially as it pertains to those of us who are not Jewish by ancestry, as an olive tree in Paul's letter to the church in Rome.
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, although a wild olive shoot, were grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you. Then you will say, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. (Rom 11:17-24)Not to overly anthropomorphize this but I believe there are some important lessons to be drawn from this
Olive trees have deep roots and many branches. There are many different branches but all of them are interconnected. The branches on an olive tree are interdependent, all drawing the source of sustenance from the same root system.
Sometimes it seems that God's people are more like a corn field than an olive tree. Corn plants in a field grow alongside one another but compete for resources. They look identical from a distance but when you get closer there are slight variations.
It seems that the church is like this. We all are claiming to follow Christ and seek to make disciples and teach those disciples. We also are divided up into row after row of nearly identical local churches, all in competition with one another for precious resources: people, money, facilities, influence. My corn plant/local church grabs what resources we can and make a few ears of corn. The corn plant/local church next to me does the same thing. The whole system doesn't look much like the church, much less an adoptive family.
Rows of corn plants in a field makes for good agricultural practice but not very good ecclesiology. We need to constantly remember that we are all grafted into the same olive tree.