A Call for Unity: Father, Make Us One

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.

Forgive us, Lord, for all the ways we have failed to be unified.

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.

Politics, Poverty, and Psalm 12

I hate politics. I get so frustrated with everything: the hype, the fundraising, the apparent inefficiencies of the process.  Do you know that in the midst of the economic difficulties that are the talk of the presidential campaign this year, over 300 million dollars have been spent by the candidates?

Ugh. I hate that our system is like that.

I’ve joked, half seriously, that my political stance is socialist libertarian. I want everyone to have all the resources and services they need, but somehow, not have government do it.

I just have so little trust that it will be done well.

I think this frustration began when I spent the summer in Los Angeles, serving the urban poor. We spent several weeks working with the homeless population in Skid Row.

Skid Row is an area of Los Angeles zoned for homeless shelters. If homeless are found in other parts of the city, they are taken to Skid Row. Since politicians want to get re-elected, if they can’t solve the poverty, they can at least make it less visible. The reality of seeing the homeless presses too hard against our comfortable lives.

This area has plenty of homeless shelters and single room occupancy hotels, but no restaurants or shops. There are buildings full of services, but empty of jobs. Skid Row is place where stomachs are fed, but hope is left empty.

It get agitated just thinking about it. I don’t know if it is still this way today, but I know it is the way it was in 1999.

I want to help the poor. I really do. But I wonder how can we trust that politicians will actually help with problems of poverty when they have such a terrible track record? At the same time I wonder what other answer there is? Again, I think, socialist libertarian. I want freedom for the oppressed now and freedom from the potential oppressors of the future.

This is my struggle. And it is not unique to me. Nor is it new.

Throughout history, there have been leaders who have gotten to their positions of power through dishonest means. And once they got to that position, made decisions that hurt people.  

This is what David was concerned about in Psalm 12.

Help, Lord, for no one is faithful anymore; those who are loyal have vanished from the human race.  Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts.

May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue— those who say, “By our tongues we will prevail; our own lips will defend us—who is lord over us?” – Psalm 12:1-4 (NIV)

And people say the Bible is out-of-touch with modern times. I think these verses could easily have been written about many leaders in power today. Mouths that speak lies in order to get ahead. Tongues that persuade and prevail over opposition. Spirits filled with pride that question any who would try to tell them what to do.

And then, David goes on to say what God has revealed to him. That the Lord is going to do something about this.

“Because of the violence done to the oppressed, because of the painful cries of the needy, I will spring into action,” says the Lord. “I will provide the safety they so desperately desire.” – Psalm 12:5 (NET)

Oh, this is my heart’s cry: that the Lord would rise up and protect the poor from those who have harmed them.

But God does not always answer this way, does He? Life is not that simple. In this circumstance, He rose up to protect. In others, He does not.

I wish I knew why.

Yet, I still believe God is good. I believe that one day, things will be made right.

And in the meantime? God has called us to be the ones to rise up.

Whatever we believe politically, Jesus says if we believe in Him, we are to help the poor.

It is us who need to spring into action on behalf of the needy. And in that way, through us, this promise of God in Psalm 12:5, can come true more often.

Politicians may lie. But God’s promises are true.

Walk through the Psalms is a series reflecting on the beautiful and timeless poetry found in the middle of the Bible. It is an intentional study of God’s Word, grounded in the belief that God gave us the Bible so we could read it and think about it, even when that is difficult.