This idea of unity starts with us. We have to pull together and then we have to keep on climbing. The secret is not giving up.
Unity isn’t easy. Most of us have never learned how to disagree in love. Or how to love those with whom we disagree. We’re like the poet who wrote:
“To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know;
Well, that’s another story!”
Unity isn’t easy. But Jesus not only prayed for it, but He also modeled it for us. Remember when the disciples came to Him complaining about the people who were preaching and doing signs and wonders in Jesus’ name but weren’t part of the crowd of disciples. They were ready to run them out of town or call down lightning upon their heads. Jesus told the disciples not to stop them and said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.”
Christian unity is not determined by whether we agree with each other about every interpretation of scripture or doctrine or form of church government. Christian unity IS determined by whether we love one another, and whether we reflect the love of God in Christ for the world. There will always be that which separates Christians from Christians and denominations from the denomination. But we can still affirm and celebrate God’s love for us all and our love for one another. In the ways of love, the ways of mutual respect; understanding, and acceptance, we can be “one” in Christ.
B. A Canadian by the name of Ashleigh Brilliant draws cartoons to go with pithy sayings called “Pot Shots.” There is one I really like. Two people with walking sticks in hand, are climbing a mountain in knee-deep snow. The caption reads: “Keep Climbing Upwards! You may never reach the top, but it’s definitely in that direction.”
We have to continue to work toward unity and understanding – between each other, between ethnicity, between cultures, and between denominations. We may never reach it, but by working toward it, at least we’ll be going in the right direction.
Shortly after the end of the Civil War, in a fashionable Richmond church, members of the congregation were invited to come to the altar to receive Holy Communion. After several rows of worshipers came and left after receiving Communion side by side, a black man walked down the aisle. A tense silence gripped everyone. No one else got up to go receive the bread and wine, although many had not yet received Communion. The black man started to kneel alone.
Quietly, a tall, graying man with a military bearing stood up and strode down the aisle to the black man’s side. Together, they knelt. Before the preacher could continue, people realized that the person kneeling beside the black man without showing any distinction was General Robert E. Lee. Although Lee said nothing, everyone knew he had shown his faith through his act of joining that lonely black worshiper at the altar.
Lee’s example is an example for all of us. We have to work toward breaking down the racial, cultural, and denominational barriers that divide us as Christians. We’re called to let go of past hurts that have separated us from one another by turning them over to God and offering those who have hurt us forgiveness. And in seeking forgiveness from those we have hurt.
CONCLUSION: We’re called to demonstrate our unity in Christ through love. It has to start with us. We have to pull together. And we have to keep on climbing. No matter what the vote: Christ’s prayer and Christ’s command is still that we be one as He is one with God and that we love one another as He has loved us.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day!