John 17:20-21 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
A Prayer for Unity
When Jesus holds out his wounded hands and beckons to us to follow him, do our hearts struggle to follow his commands?
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. Ah, but he also told us to love our enemies and to obey his commands.
He reiterated the second one to his disciples when he told them that people would know they were his followers when they showed love for one another. Do we pray that we might be unified with our brothers and sisters in Christ, or do we, as we go about our daily lives, forget these commands in pursuit of our own ideas, in our eagerness to convert others to our agendas.
When we Christians in the Western world label ourselves Republicans or Democrats, or negatively label others “alt-right” or “liberals,” or decide morality and social justice are mutually exclusive, we go beyond offending our brothers and sisters in Christ – we offend Jesus by choosing to step off his path and hide his light.
In his book Generous Justice* Timothy Keller explains this division among us eloquently:
In Western society, these sets of concerns have often been split off from one another. In fact, each of America’s two main political parties has built its platform on one of these sets of ethical prescriptions to the near exclusion of the other. Conservatism stresses the importance of personal morality, especially the importance of traditional sexual mores and hard work, and feels that liberal charges of racism and social injustice are overblown. On the other hand, liberalism stresses social justice, and considers conservative emphasis on moral virtue to be prudish and psychologically harmful. Each side, of course, thinks the other side is smug and self-righteous.
As Christ’s disciples, shouldn’t we love one another, respect one another, embrace one another and treat each other with dignity in Jesus’ name? Yet to do that, first and foremost, we must offer grace, and approach each other in humbleness.
How? To begin with, open our ears to hear “the other side” because sometimes they make sense.
Because how can we call ourselves followers of Jesus when we continue to:
– watch TV shows that angrily rant about “the other side”
– post our own rants, or pass along articles or jokes on social media about “the other side,” particularly if we are not daily praying for our president and congress, whether or not we voted for them
– justify name calling and “righteous anger” because Jesus became angry with the moneychangers at the temple. If we equate ourselves with Jesus, we commit the sin of arrogance and self-righteousness. None of us deserves to be saved; let’s all remember that he died for our sins. And the last time I looked, he is still God, not us.
– get angry about our tax dollars going to “those people” when the Bible tells us that “those people” are one of the four groups (widows, orphans, the poor and foreigners) we as God’s children are blessed enough to care for and are summoned by Him to carry their burdens
– flaunt our lack of personal responsibility when Jesus clearly told us to be responsible is to feed, clothe and shelter the poor, refugees and immigrants (Matthew 25:35-40). This is our Great Commission!
Jesus told us that as peacemakers, we would be blessed; we would be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). But we can only be peacemakers after we realize we are poor in spirit and we need God, after we mourn for our sins, after we are willing to become gentle with each other, after we hunger and thirst for righteousness in our hearts, after we become merciful with each other, and after our hearts are pure in motivation. (Matthew 5:3-9)
If you are a Christian, instead of wearing the labels of Republican or Democrat (Tea Party, Independent, Libertarian), conservative or liberal, how about wearing the labels of humanitarian, friend, listener, encourager, thinker, responder, peacemaker,…and follower of Jesus.
Since I have come to Christ, I have an undeniable urge to walk a different path than the one of my past. I don’t always succeed, and like the apostle Paul, I am the worst sinner. But because the hole in my heart was filled with Christ’s love, peace and understanding, his compassion and empathy, his forgiveness, grace and mercy, I feel I must do my best to obey him when he exhorts me to love my Christian friend as well as my enemy.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:22-24
I have a long way to go, but with God’s help, I’m working on it. How about you?
*(©2010, p54-55, Riverhead Group, Penguin Books, NY, New York)