Francis Chan is releasing a new book on April 1: Until Unity. I’m saying it’s his most important book yet, and I know how big of a statement that is. Crazy Love has been hugely influential in helping so many recover from Lukewarm Christianity. Forgotten God has helped many conservative Christians—including myself—rediscover the person and the power of the Holy Spirit. But Until Unity is hugely important in a way that I think will have an even greater impact. Here’s why.
This book starts with Francis doing what many of us have done recently: He lifts his head, looks around, and observes the staunch and growing divisions in so many areas of our society. While it’s pretty gross out here in a lot of spaces, Francis is most grieved with the division within the church.
Of all people, Christians should know the importance of unity. As we’ve been saying for a while now, if you start talking about unity these days, you’re immediately dismissed as liberal, or as fluffy, or as someone who doesn’t take the Bible seriously. But Francis overturns all of those lazy and inaccurate accusations. How? By simply listing some of the many Scriptures that directly call for unity. How, he wonders, can someone who insists on taking a literal interpretation of Bible passages about avoiding division and preserving unity be condemned as unbiblical? There is a sense in many branches of the church right now that anyone who disagrees with you about something you consider “biblical” can and should be dismissed and warned against. But Francis in effect argues that because there are many biblical commands to be united, to avoid slander, to not be quarrelsome, etc., the case could be made that the person who is insisting on pursuing unity is the biblical conservative.
Until Unity is certainly not a plea to ignore doctrine. Francis is as strong on biblical truth as he’s ever been (which is very strong). Honestly, I’ve never met anyone as prone to take Scripture at face value and to respond in obedience to a literal interpretation of the Bible as Francis is. This includes passages like “sell your possessions and give to the poor,” which is a passage that his critics tend to dismiss as figurative or situational. Rather than dismissing doctrine in order to find a light weight version of unity in the church, Francis calls us to a deeper theological unity.
We all have things we are passionate about. That’s as it should be. A lot of disunity comes because we’re passionate about these different areas. What if we could acknowledge each other’s passions and stay united around the gospel itself, around the mission that Jesus gave us to make disciples, around the strongest emphases of Scripture? Why should we expect to agree with every member of our churches on every matter of doctrine? Unity amidst diversity is actually something we should strive for, and Francis paints a compelling picture of how this should look.
In one of the strongest sections of the book, Francis unpacks Jesus’ prayer in John 17 that his followers would all be one—in the same way that Jesus and the Father are one!—and that this unity amongst Christians would serve as evidence to the world that Jesus really was sent from God. Francis notes all the strategies and efforts we make to help people see Jesus for who he really is, meanwhile we all ignore the one strategy that Jesus actually gave us: be united and people will believe that Jesus was sent from the Father!
While we may be prone to see the divided nature of the church as a point of sadness, an inconvenience, or a source of frustration and pain, Francis calls division what it is: sin. He calls us throughout to repent of the pride, selfishness, and lack of love that leads us into increasing disunity.
If Jackass Theology makes you nervous, I understand. We really are trying to call everyone to take Jesus and Scripture more seriously by loving as Jesus loved, but to many this has sounded like a call to disregard Scripture. If that’s you, I highly recommend you read Until Unity. Francis makes a compelling case for a literal reading of the biblical commands to be united. And he goes to great lengths to help us understand how this works out in practice. He even talks about the friendly fire he’s received when the Christian community has attacked him over the years.
I’m certain this is his most important book yet. It will draw you deeper into Scripture and help you live more fully in the love of God that comes to us through Jesus.