Before Jesus departs the earth and heads back to heaven, he prays to the Father for unity of his followers. He says UNITY will enable the world to believe. “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for ALL who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will ALL BE ONE..” (John 17:20-23) The early church was united and the result was people being saved left and right. Paul, in Philippians, is instructing the church to stand firm, with one mind, side by side. He says this will be a CLEAR SIGN. (Philippians 1:27-28)
Sadly, I think we’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’d define the Christian movement today as one unified mind. So I argue, should we be surprised that the world struggles to believe or place any trust in God? You’ll find followers of Jesus divided on every issue. There are even an over abundance of Christian websites condemning and critiquing fellow Christian speakers, teachers and authors because they (people behind the website) don’t agree with their (people behind the book’s) message. I’m not discounting discernment, it’s actually a spiritual gift of mine that I very much appreciate. What I’m getting at is merely this, if we’re such a house divided inside itself… should we really spend that much time scratching our heads wondering why people would prefer their own religion of no religion?
AW Tozer says, “It is of far greater importance that we have better Christians than that we have more of them.”
It is painfully clear our Christian pond is very wide, but not so deep. It starts with us, people who claim to be children of God. We have to be better Christians—better imitators of Jesus. Christ came as a humble servant. Most Christians (or literally translated ‘little Christs’) just want to be right and have people conform to our right-ness. This reeks of very much pride and very little humility.
Christ literally washed his disciples’ feet before he died. Tonight I pictured being in a room WHERE JESUS TRIED TO WASH MY FEET. I shuttered at the discomfort I’d feel and the tears of unworthiness I’d surely shed. Christ served. Yet churches, the body of his people, are filled with congregations that consume and seldom contribute. I’ll be real honest, I do serve at church but at a bare minimum level. I get to answer questions to new comers after service, for like 10 minutes. 10 minutes of “servanthood” a week. I often thank God for not calling me to a chair set up ministry or *gasp* the children’s ministry.
In all things, I would rather not be bothered by the inconvenience of work or putting others before myself. I’m part of the problem. Not only do I avoid being a servant, I don’t do life with others, if I can help it. My life has been marked with relatively zero effort of unity or intimacy with people. I haven’t placed an ounce of value in it ever.
How do you think this looks to a watching world?
My pastor, Keith Minier, has said before that we should be people who are FOR something and not against everything. This stuck with me because it challenged me. It made me uncomfortable at first glance. But as I’ve come back to it over and over again throughout the years, even as recently as tonight… I see the beauty in being unified for something and not divided over an issue.
Ugh, issues. I’m a person of strong opinions who strives for knowledge and desires to keep acquiring more and more knowledge, comfortably accustomed to never actually having to act on anything I’ve learned. So when I say that I’m so over the “issues” it’s not at all because I believe that we shouldn’t be informed. It’s just, I don’t think Jesus advocated for any issues. Jesus didn’t see hot button issues or senate bills. He saw people. And He always saw hearts. What if us ‘little Christs’, were actually known for and unified in doing things FOR people and not just always against the issues?
One of my favorite quotes is by Stuart Chase, where he says, “For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don’t believe, no proof is possible.” Turns out Chase believed in a flat earth and socialism, and wasn’t an evangelist but this quote I like for evangelism.
I’m not prepared to say it doesn’t happen, but I’ve not heard of any stories where someone lost an argument on a facebook comment thread, surrendered to their rival, accepted Jesus as the only way and ended up in heaven as a result. The under current of religious debates is really who is smarter. Argument is war. Debates use war terminology. Dr. Espen Stoknes, a psychologist/writer says, ‘one side wins and the other loses. If my opponent feels he is better than me, that is intolerable to me. I’ll not listen to what he says, or when he’s talking, I’ll be planning my counter attack.”
War terminology is the opposite of unity. War is divisive. You don’t enter into war with people you love. And Jesus says repeatedly to love one another. And if you’re constantly going around feeling smarter than your “opponents”, where is the humility in that?
Instead of trying to convince people of something, what if we instead sought after the empathy to understand their point of view to see where they might be getting “stuck”. What if we really were quick to listen and slow to speak, like our Bible tells us?
Can you imagine if we were a united example of what the Bible actually commands the church to be? I can hear you now, “but the Bible says _______ is a sin”. And you’re probably right that the Word of God, the only authority that matters, would echo whatever right-ness (not righteous) cause you’ve taken up. But the Bible is also very clear about the fact that the law doesn’t save people. (Romans 3:20) Never has. Jesus did and does. (Romans 3:24) So what if we stopped publicly referencing, defending, (and please oh please) Facebook sharing all the laws of ‘Christianity’ (speck in your brother’s eye—Matthew 7:5) and paid more attention to the things Jesus actually asks of us (the plank in our eye)?
Man, we have to at least try to look like Jesus. Or even just want to want to look like him. And we have to stop ignoring the commands and instructions he repeatedly gave us in how to bring about belief. Unity. Love.
Francis Chan says, “The first church was built on the things that pleased God most. It was their focus on the right things that actually made them attractive.” He goes further to say, “What they were doing was unique. It was compelling in a way that nothing else in the world could rival. It was something the world had never seen.”
Tozer also says, “We may as well face it: the whole level of spirituality among us is low. We have measured ourselves by ourselves until the incentive to seek higher plateaus … is all but gone.”
We’ve set the Christian bar so low it’s embarrassing. Let’s give the world something they’ve never seen. Maybe an apology first, but then definitely counter cultural humility, love and unity.
I’m so sorry I’ve called myself a Christian for 17 years and haven’t done a lick of loving people. I haven’t cared of social injustices nor have I been broken for orphans or the poor. I’m sorry for silently judging you. I’m sorry for not caring at all where you’ll spend eternity. I’m sorry for thinking you were too shallow or unintelligent to be friends with. I’m sorry if I avoided you because I didn’t want your burden. I’m sorry that I’ve spent all my money on clothes and food while people slept in the cold of Ohio without either. I’m sorry that for years, I looked away and didn’t want to know anything about anything related to human trafficking. I’m sorry for thinking I was better or smarter than you when your opinion differed from mine. I’m sorry for being overly critical of you and overly gracious to myself. I’m sorry to anyone who has ever reached out to get to know me and been blown off because I valued my schedule more than you. I’m most sorry for pretending it was possible to love God all these years without loving others. I was so wrong.
I really want to be different. I really want to be a better example of Christianity. Do you forgive me?