The divisiveness has gotten palpable. And its taste is bitter. I’m not talking about politics. I’m talking about the Church.
There are so many things that have so many people so very angry. We argue about issues of theology and praxis, demonizing those who interpret the Bible differently. We are furious about church leaders who are not doing things the way we think they should. We shout to the world that we are the ones who are right and those other Christians have gotten it all wrong.
The most universal political opinion I have heard recently is the sense that November 6 could not come soon enough. Everyone has been longing for the day the shouting and the bickering and blaming would come to an end. Or at least get a little quieter for awhile.
I wonder if we are building to a day when people will wish there was a November 6 for the Church. Some sort of event that would make us shut up for awhile.
I fear the message of Jesus’ love is getting lost in the uproar of Christian arguments.
When Jesus was in the final moments before His arrest, He prayed. This was the moment for Him to emphasize what was most important. To tell us what those who consider themselves Christ-followers should remember and pray for and live out as best they can with their lives.
Jesus prayed for His disciples, and for those who would come after them. Namely, us.
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – John 17:20-23
Jesus prays for unity among His followers. Because it is through unity that Christ’s love is best revealed to the world.
It’s easy to point fingers about why Christians do not do a better job of this. We can look at how that leader is confrontational or this church is power hungry or that writer misrepresents the Bible. But blaming only increases the problem.
The way the Church will become more unified is when each of us examines our own hearts for ways we are divisive.
It’s like the old adage says, whenever we point a finger at someone else, there are four more fingers pointing back at us.
Unity begins with each of us.
What if each of us began to assume the best about those with whom we disagreed, instead of the worst? Or better yet, what if we didn’t assume at all? What if we invited those people into conversations, to hear their perspective and show them our love?
What if each of us began to recognize that the Bible is complicated? That it is possible for genuine Christ-followers, who authentically believe in the authority of the Scriptures, to come to different conclusions on interpretation? What if we focused less on convincing and more on listening? What if we realized that agreement and unity are not the same thing?
What if each of us began to spend more time seeking to love with our own lives than looking for ways others are failing to love with theirs?
Imagine what a force a unified Church could be in a world that can no longer seem to have civil disagreements. Imagine how people would be drawn to the love of Christ, a love that crosses political barriers and theological differences to join individuals into One Body. A love unmatched by anything this world has to offer.
That is what the Church is meant to be.
Father, make us One.