Greetings in the name of Jesus who prays that, “they may all be one.”
On my morning walking on Thursday an old familiar church song came to mind. I remember singing it often over the years and its words continue to offer a powerfully message and a necessary prayer.
Jesus help us live in peace, from our blindness set us free. Fill us with your healing love. Help us live in unity.
Many times we don’t agree, on what’s right or wrong to do. It’s so hard to really see from the other’s point of view.
How we long for power and fame, seeking every earthly thing. We forget the one who came as a servant, not a king.
Jesus prayed a similar unity prayer for his followers:
20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
Jesus seemed to know that the world needs a display of unity and a united people of God. We live in a world that can too easily be divided. And the consequences of those divisions can be catastrophic. Divisions based on varying opinions about important matters, differing worldviews, or divisions that are fueled by political, theological, or scientific perspectives, are just a few realities that have the potential to tear families, communities, countries and even churches apart. From the beginning of the pandemic we have kept reminding ourselves that “we are all in this together!” That is a necessary and important observation and it feels important that we keep striving to be “in this together”. More than ever we need one another in unified relationships of love as we navigate the road ahead. But experiencing that unity is not always easy.
After 6 months of new precautions and protocols as a result of Covid-19, and now the added stress of the opening of schools, and continuing questions around return to church buildings and workplaces, it may be fair to say we are all living a little closer to the edge. Emotions can run high, and erupt quickly, as we talk about what feels safe and right, and what doesn’t. Some of us are so excited when we think about increased physically connections with others, and more opportunity to share together in person! Some of us get really anxious and want to scream “No, I’m not ready for this!” Some feel like this increased connection has taken way too long to transpire; we are so glad it is finally happening! Some of us feel this is all moving way too fast! Some of us don’t know what to feel or think! We know we need more social connection for the sake of mental health but we also know we need to keep our loved ones physically safe. This can all be so confusing!
So how can we stay united, and at peace in our relationships with each other, in the midst of the continuum of such varying opinions, thoughts, feelings and emotions?
We remind ourselves that unity is not based on uniformity of thought and feeling. It is ok to think and feel differently from others. But it’s not ok to be mean and condescending to those who feel and think differently than we do.
We remind ourselves that it is important to listen to, hear and see another’s point of view. Everyone has a story that gets them to the place they are. It is important to hear that story and really listen to understand the other’s point of view, instead of quickly criticizing and casting the idea, opinion and person aside.
We remind ourselves that we are actually in this together and getting everyone to see it my way is not the ultimate goal of life. When we push for and insist on only my view we all end up disconnected and blind! Living in life giving relationship with each other, and God, is the actual goal of life and “my view/my way” only doesn’t get us to that goal. Living together in unity and life giving relationship is what sets us free to experience the fullness and joy of life.
Learning to live together in unity in spite of our diversity of feeling and thought can happen as we remind ourselves that relationships matter most. And because they matter most they should get the most attention. Jesus modelled right relationship, and so much the teaching of the Bible calls us in that direction. So let’s focus on our relationships and worry less about our opinions and our need to be right.
There are still touch decisions that need to be made in the months ahead. We will at times disagree (sometimes strongly) on the decisions that are made. But let’s commit to making these decisions, or living with the decisions that are made for us, in the context of relationships of understanding and love. Let’s communicate well, listen carefully, speak kindly, expect the best from others, be patient with each other, care deeply for one another, extend grace freely (to ourselves and others), and live humbly before God and each other. And let’s do all this with compassion and love.
Let’s hear and commit to living the words of the Apostle Paul to the church at Colossae:
12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. 13 Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Living these words and putting them into action is not something we do on our own. This fruitful way of living and being is produced as we are nourished on the tree of life and stay connected with the vine that is Jesus. If we allow this fruit to be produced in our living, and pray with Jesus the unity prayer, unity will be our experience and we will all find our way through September together. And we will discover, within ourselves and between each other, a greater sense of peace!