“Blessed are the peacemakers, for it is they who will be recognized as sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9 (Weymouth New Testament)
On January the 25th, the WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY began, and here we are as Christians, nearly 2,000 years after Christ gave the Beatitudes to His early followers in the Sermon on the Mount… and as I write this, I wonder: If I were put on trial today for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict me? Or you? Would we be convicted not only by our words, but by our actions? Are we making peace with our neighbors, with the world, with our fellow Christians? Around 197 A.D., Tertullian, who has been billed by many as “The Founder of Western Theology”, wrote in his Apologeticus, his work defending Christianity and asking Emperor Septimius Severus to allow Christianity to be treated as a legal religion, just as any other sect that existed within the empire at that time. The Emperor knew nothing of Christianity, except that he wanted it done away with, and so Tertullian took it upon himself to explain, that is to Apologize, Christianity to Septimius Severus and the other magistrates of Rome. To me, the most fascinating and telling lines Tertullian wrote are: “But it is mainly the deeds of a love so noble that lead many to put a brand upon us. See, they say, how they love one another… how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves will sooner put to death.”
Sadly, in today’s world, we live in a time when people outside the church are certainly not saying of Christians “See how they LOVE each other!” Sadder still, and more apparent than our lack of love for one another in the Church, are our extreme divisions. Of the Church today, we’re more likely to hear “Can’t they AGREE on ANYTHING?!” It is difficult enough to be a Christian in today’s times with the influence of so many anti-Christian “role-models”- companies, music, books, websites, ad infinitum, infecting and influencing the minds of so many to turn from God and to run toward what is considered “cool” by so many, that the fact that there are those who claim Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, and who demonstrate such a lack of love and support for their brothers and sisters that it is truly disheartening. And, sadder still, there are so many fractures and total breaks within the Body of Christ – His Church Universal – that many multi-denominational gatherings, Facebook pages, blogs, magazines and other media do their best to focus on all the differences between their denomination and the denominations of their brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Until recently, I was a member of a particular group on Facebook promoting unity between Catholics and Protestants – however, instead of anyone posting anything celebrating what we hold in common and trying to bring about that unity, nearly every post was an argument, Protestants saying “the problem with Catholics is…” or Catholics saying “the problem with Protestants is…” WHERE IS THE UNITY?! WHERE ARE THE PEACEMAKERS?! Can we say, honestly, of ourselves and the Church as a whole, that we can be recognized as– instantly known to be – sons and daughters of God Almighty?
In John 17, verses 20-24 (NIV) “20My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” – Christ Jesus prays that we be one. This is God’s desire for his Body, of which Christ Jesus is the Head. When the Lord looks down upon His people, His Church – he doesn’t want to see dissention, argument and down-right hatred amongst the sheep of His flock. Can you imagine how sad this makes Our Savior? He came to set the captives free; and now, many of us have put ourselves in chains of our own making with all of this quarrelling with our brethren.
It is time, not just during this Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, but now and evermore for us to put aside our differences and focus on the fact that we all seek to serve the same GOD: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Yes, we may choose to serve and worship in varied and sometimes drastically different ways, but that should not prevent us from, asSaint Paulsays in Philippians 2:2, “…being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Let us remember that our Savior told us “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34,35 (NIV) Let us notice that it is a COMMAND He gives us, not a suggestion or a wish… it is an order from our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Let us also agree on this, that we are indeed, as Christians, children of the SAME GOD, who should be striving to the SAME purpose: serving one another, out of love, to glorify the Lord… the rest are, for the most part, our ego-driven, however well meant, differences. It’s time we lay aside the differences, at least in our minds and in our concerns with one another, and focus on the LOVE OF GOD dwelling within us and flowing THROUGH US, so perhaps, once again, we can be RECOGNIZED as God’s children by our LOVE and desire to MAKE PEACE. Amen? Amen!