Updated: Jan 20
When I was in University, I was part of a Christian club on our campus which was a huge encouragement to me – a place where I could make friends who also wanted to live out their faith passionately. Now I have to admit that that club was one of MANY Christian clubs on campus and this was a source of ridicule from some people on campus. I remember having a conversation with another student who had written an article in a student paper criticizing Christians, in part, for their lack of unity. I remember saying to her (and I still believe it now) that Christian unity is not based on organizational unity but on our shared faith in one person, Jesus Christ.
The problem was, however, I knew that despite our common faith in Jesus, we were not united. For example, on Club Days, when each club got to set up a table on campus, our club members caught wind that people at another Christian club table had told some people that our club was made up of nominal (i.e. “not real”) Christians. That was not good and certainly was not an example of unity. But then our club members started talking among ourselves about how judgmental the other club was. We prided ourselves on not sharing this information with the general public but in our hearts we did not feel united to these other people. We were part of the problem by our unloving attitude.
This quiet disunity went on for a long time. But there was a turning point. It was when our various Christian clubs intentionally started working together on a time of shared worship, open to all people on campus. Suddenly people who thought of each other as narrow or nominal started working together in order to glorify the name of Jesus. Suddenly the very person who was supposed to be our unity, was bringing us unity, because we were actually behaving like we all belonged to him!
Today we are living in a time where unity seems more and more remote. In our country and in other countries around the world politics is becoming increasingly polarized. Nationalism seems to be expressed more as who we are against or who we are better than, rather than who we actually are. And even in the Church it is easier than ever for us to fight each other and mark off our territory as we defend our theological ground.
The Disciples struggled with this:
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” (Mark 9:38)
Jesus’ response to them was startling:
“Do not stop him…. For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me….” (Mark 9:39)
Jesus didn’t ignore differences (he constantly challenged the Teachers of the Law and other leaders) but he wanted his followers to let HIM be the one who united them as shown by the love they receive from him and shared with each other. At the end of his ministry, here’s how Jesus prayed for them and for us:
"Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one." (John 17:11b)
"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 17:22-23)
YIKES! One, like God the Father and God the Son are one. One, to the point that one would say, you have to die for them and the other would say, “Your will be done.” I’m not there yet. You probably aren’t either. THAT’S why we need to pray for unity in the CHURCH. This week is “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” (January 18-24). Will you pray with me the words of Colossians 1:9-14 on behalf of the WHOLE CHURCH:
"…We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Don’t waste your time trying to stop people who aren’t signed up with you or lined up with you. Notice when we both declare the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and when we make him the source and focus of our faith. Then love them. Pray for them. Try to truly understand them. And let the name of Jesus be most important.
So, here's a challenge for you this week:
1. Notice what Christian church/churches are near you (other than Westview);
2. List them;
3. Pray for them;
4. Call/email them to tell them you’re praying for them (ask if there are specific prayer requests);
5. Comment below this blog to let us know the name of the church or churches you are praying for so we can join you;
6. We’ll have a page on our website listing the churches we’re praying for this week.