| GOD and US
|A Call for Complete
Unity in Christ
|A Reality Check|
|Jesus prayed this the night before his crucifixion: "My prayer is not for them (his disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 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. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. MAY THEY BE BROUGHT TO COMPLETE UNITY to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me." John 17:20-23|
|What was in Jesus' heart as he
prayed that prayer? As always, it was his love and concern
for us. Why? Because he wants us to be blessed,
enlarged, encouraged and made joyous in him. He wants that we
have the fullest possible life -- the biblical term is "abundant
life" -- both now and for eternity. There is
nothing in unity with Christ that's a downer, instead it's a HUGE
upper! That is a given, because Jesus loved us to the point
of his death, and he continues to love us by mediating a relationship
between us and God the Father. He does this seated at the
Father's right hand with a risen human body vicariously representing
all of humanity, thereby including all humanity in relationship with
the Father. It's important to keep in mind that Christ
had our best interests in mind as he prayed that prayer.
It would also be good for us as Christians to take note of what Jesus prayed about so that we may better know him by knowing what's important to him. The scripture quoted above is part of Jesus' prayer the night before he suffered and died on the cross. He knew his crucifixion was imminent -- just hours away -- so in this prayer he prayed about those things which mattered most to him. Notice, please, that he prayed about our unity -- oneness with Jesus, oneness with the Father, oneness with each other -- a mutually shared oneness, unity, communion and fellowship. Again, to make the point, it was OUR unity -- also our UNITY -- that he prayed for, and it was a oneness -- a mutual indwelling that was to be "as" the oneness of Jesus and the Father. To the shame of all Christians everywhere, this has not happened -- instead of unity with and in Christ together with God the Father in the Holy Spirit we have for the most part (yes, there are wonderful exceptions) preferred our doctrines, distinctions and denominations to Christ. Generally we prefer distinction to communion, denominationalism to unity and our "religion" with its legalism, rules, rites, rituals and programs to Christ. There are now many thousands of Christian denominations and sub-groups, most thinking they are somehow superior to other denominations and sub-groups. To help us understand, here's a short list of this "superior" thinking: "Our doctrines our better." "We have a better baptism." "Our traditions are better." "Our worship is contemporary." "We have a long history." "We're fresh and new." "Our music is better." "Our communion is better." "Our church is more relevant." "We believe the scriptures mean what they say." "We believe that in the scriptures we can come to know God." "We have significance." "We have the Holy Spirit (and you don't)." "Our theology is better." "We have solemnity." "We have spontaneity." And the list goes on ad infinitum, ad nauseum. Some even arrogantly insist that they are "the one and only" true church. I don't know the number of churches making that claim, but in my lifetime I've been a member of two "one and only" true churches. That is real and true -- funny in a way -- yet tragic in the final analysis.
The very fact that we are not living in the complete unity Jesus prayed to the Father for us should indicate that, "Hey, Houston, we have a problem here." It points up the fact that we don't have the oneness with Christ that is as Jesus prayed it would be, the same as the oneness of Jesus and the Father. It should be a wake up call to us that we are kicking against the goads -- resisting the goodness of complete unity in which God wants to bless us. This unity comes about only in direct unfettered individual relationships with the Father through Jesus.
In all of this "Christian" one-upmanship in which we currently live, with some encouraging exceptions, far too little love is lost between groups. At this juncture it will be good for us to be reminded of what Jesus said about how Christians should be with each other: "...Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35) That's not happening to any large degree. Is it any wonder that Christianity is so weak and ineffective in the modern world? We are not one with Christ. We are not demonstrating Christ. We are not showing all men that we are Jesus' disciples because we refuse the gift of unity he is eager to give us in him. We work our own agenda or someone else's agenda instead of his agenda. His agenda for us includes mutually shared love and unity.
Great Father God, Jesus Christ and Holy Spirit, forgive us for our egotistical arrogance and everything else we allow to stand between us and you. With Your forgiveness we ask that you unite us together in love with You and Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. In Jesus name we ask it.
Why do we prefer denominational distinctions and our religious "stuff" to Christ? Because our focus is on ourselves or our group and not on Jesus Christ. The focus is on some distinction or other which makes us feel superior to others. Instead of focusing on knowing Jesus as he truly is and the common ground we have in Jesus Christ as Christians we look for the distinctive that makes us special, unique, better. This human malady affects Christian leaders and lay members alike. The obstacles to unity are not of God -- they are of us.
OBSTACLES FOR CHRISTIAN LEADERS
It would seem that the largest obstacles to love and unity within Christianity are those which affect Christian leaders more than the laity. Instead of Christ and his will for us as leaders we prefer the power, prestige, privilege, paycheck, position and the present status quo that's wrapped up in our leadership. And the relatively few of us in leadership influence most of those who call themselves Christians. Also throw in a huge dose of procrastination--over 1900 years' worth. Isn't it time to turn that around?
OBSTACLES FOR CHRISTIAN LAITY
For the majority of the laity there is a preference to let the leadership do their thinking about what Christianity is. There are also prevailing tendencies to prefer programs and lists of do's and don'ts or a relationship to a church denomination rather than a personal relationship with Christ. Who hasn't heard the tragic story about someone being asked if they were a Christian, and their answer was, "NO, I'm a __________" (fill in a denomination name). Many hold to some prevalent wrong understanding of what "the Church" is. The Church is not a structure, those who enter some particular building or those who are involved in a particular denomination. The Biblical understanding of the Church is that it is composed of those who are in a real living relationship with Jesus Christ, basking in his love, graciousness and goodness. The Church is all those who truly are in Christ. It's the "Body of Christ" and it is Jesus who decides who is and who is not in his body.
A CALL TO CHRISTIANS -- LEADERS AND LAITY -- TO COMPLETE UNITY IN CHRIST! Let's make what was important enough for Jesus to pray about just hours before his crucifixion important to us. Let's make Jesus Christ more important to us than all those things we substitute for him and all the obstacles we place before Christian unity. Let's truly love one another so Jesus is known and seen in the world. I would hope that denominational leaders would take the bull by the horns and lead us to that unity, but I have serious doubts that will happen. (I'd love to be surprised and found wrong in this.) This complete unity in Christ that Jesus prayed we'd have will probably come about more because individual Christians insist upon it than through denominational leadership.
In this context of love and complete unity within Christianity let's remember Bobby Kennedy's oft repeated paraphrase of George Bernard Shaw's words, "There are those that look at things the way they are and ask, 'why?' I dream of things that never were and ask 'why not?'"
Why not have unity and mutual love in Christendom?
Why not pray that it happens within ten years -- well within most of our expected lifetimes?
This was first posted on GodAndUs.org Feb 7, 2007. Ten years from now is Feb 7, 2017. A countdown begins.
If complete unity in Christ is a desirable goal, then I pray that Christians everywhere -- leaders and laity alike -- will, as much as lies within them, make it happen:
1. Christian leaders -- first make sure you truly know and are in Christ.
2. Christian leaders -- do everything you can to facilitate others in a one-on-one knowing of Jesus as beloved Son of God the Father in the Holy Spirit with absolutely nothing "religious" or "churchy" in between.
3. Christian laity -- know and live in relationship with Christ.
A PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY
Our Father, you are the awesome Almighty, Holy, loving God living in eternal joyous harmony and unity with Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit. Father give us eyes to see you as you are -- let us know you in your reality as a loving Father. And Lord, God, let us know you as much as it is possible for humans to know you -- unhindered by all of our traditions, pre-suppositions and all of our projections. Lord replace any wrong beliefs we have about you with a deep faith in you as you are in your deepest reality.
Jesus, let us know you as the beloved son of the Father who has eternally lived in such complete love and unity with the Father that you are one with him while even yet being distinct in personhood. Lord Jesus Christ we pray that we may know you as the All in all that you are -- as the Light of the World! As Unifier of all!
Father, we ask you to fill our minds and hearts with the same burning longing for unity with you and with each other that Jesus prayed for the night before his crucifixion. We pray as Jesus prayed, "May we be brought to complete unity" that the world may know your love and that you sent Jesus.
We ask Lord that you would live in us and that you would give us the hearts and minds to live in you and in the Father in the love and unity you prayed that we would have.
Father may we be instruments of that love and unity and may we realize this complete unity in our near life times, with no more delay.
In Jesus name we ask it. Amen and amen.
My name is Tony Murphy, and as I post this on GodAndUs.org February 7, 2007, I'm 63 years old. I've heard talk of Christian unity since Pope John XXIII over four decades ago -- and though there have been efforts towards that unity, it's just not happened -- certainly not in any substantive way. This call is one I'm relaying, not one I'm making. It is Jesus' call. It is his prayer. He prayed for unity in him to happen. Who are we to hinder or retard that for which the Son of God -- God in the flesh -- prayed?
I dearly long to see Christianity well on the way to Jesus being recognized for what he is in reality -- the Light of the World (Greek, kosmos), Lord of lords, and King of kings. I eagerly look forward to when we are immersed in Christian love and closely approaching or having apprehended complete unity before I die. That is my prayer. Please, let's all those who name the name of Christ pray for it and as much as lies within us, make it happen. Above all let's start living in Jesus Christ and relating to him personally, us in him and he in us -- that's the only way it will happen. In the final analysis complete Christian unity is not something we can bring about but only something we can receive because we live in Christ. This complete unity is a gracious gift Jesus gives through the Holy Spirit living in us when we are living in Jesus.
"There are those that look at things the way they are and ask, 'why?' I dream of things that never were and ask 'why not?'"
Please consider passing this on to your Christian friends.