May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God. – Romans 15:5-7
THE TEMPERATURE DROPPED IN EDEN when the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord walking in the cool of the day, and hid among the trees. By taking a bite of the forbidden fruit, they'd torn the bond with their Creator apart and hid because they knew what they'd done was wrong. The couple's act of hiding brought their sin out into plain sight. Now, there would be no more walking with God in the cool of the day, only the cold reminiscence of their innocence lost.
We shudder at the thought of the man and his wife being banished from the garden because we don't like the idea of separation, nor private acts of estrangement, not even the sound of its terms. Disunity, division, divorce. The words shock our ears and zap our nervous systems because we know intuitively something is wrong. A relationship has fractured—because separation always speaks of the relational, and someone somewhere is hurting. Whether or not we know the broken-hearted, we too are hurting for we live in a broken world. Discord and strife, even among strangers, remind us of our own disappointment and sorrows.
God never formed those whom He fashioned out of clay to become broken vessels. God, Who said, "It's not good for man to be alone," patterned man after His relational image, the image of the Godhead; Three Persons, One Triune God. Therefore, it is not division He designed in our nature, but life in community created to persist over the breadth of eternity. We ache for the primacy of unity, first with God and then with one another. It is unity we crave, unity that eludes us, and disunity is the reason why many of us suffer.
There is hope, however, in these days of human fracture. In the pain of our separateness, we can encounter God as our heart's truest desire, the One Who can reach inside our locked isolation, and find us hiding in our personal sins. Jesus alone can satisfy our deep need for unity. He is the One Who enters our loneliness as the righteous Mediator, able to restore our broken relationships until we are able to "welcome one another as Christ."
At Pentecost, Jesus's disciples received the gift of the Holy Spirit which fused all believers together in Christ. Having received God’s Spirit inside us, the bond is restored between God and man. This same Spirit makes it possible for all believers to live in harmony with one another, and glorify God with one voice.
At present, the ache remains. Our unity with one another is not parallel with Christ's unity with the Father. We, the global Church of believers in Jesus, the One Who prayed all believers would be unified, continue to live in isolation from one another. This is not due entirely to doctrinal differences. Diversity, not homogeneity, produces strength. Our differing views on the meaning of baptism, the purpose of worship, and the significance of the Lord’s Supper can all be civilly debated.
Without reaching widespread unanimity on these doctrinal points, we can, nonetheless, serve a broken world together, and stand in solidarity against the enemy’s devilish war against humanity. For these reasons, and so “the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (Jn 17:23), believers should take seriously the prayer of Jesus despite our differences. As Philosopher Peter Kreeft writes, "Brothers come together when there's an enemy at the door."
As we pray and fast together over the next two weeks—as denominationalists, non-denomers, evangelicals, Catholics, and nomads—will you make room for a fantastically counter-cultural idea? Jesus prayed for unity among fellow believers because unity among His church is an inevitability.
Father, may we take seriously Your prayer that we “may be one as [Jesus and the Father] are one” (Jn 17:22). Despite our differences, remind us of our common faith, and our desire to obey You. May our fasting and praying together draw us closer to You and to one another in unity.
Dr. Chris Coppernoll
Ministry Director, Christian Union Nova
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