When I pray for unity among those that love God, I say the prayer with big fat tears rolling down my cheeks. I don’t like conflict and the past year has been emotionally draining and exhausting. I feel so tired.
In our passion for loving God, many of us Christians are driven to understand God’s Word and to get our theology right and to be on the right side of God’s morality, and we just end up arguing with one another. We don’t appreciate that we share a common motivation to love God and an earnest desire to interpret the same Bible and listen to the same Jesus. Sometimes our attempts are misguided and always we need God’s grace to see each other in a more charitable light.
In recent memory, I can’t think of a week that has gone by where I haven’t heard Christians criticizing groups of other Christians or questioning the integrity of other Christians’ faith. I have brothers and sisters in Christ who are Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Episcopalian, Mormon, Baptist, Old Order River Brethren, Church of God, African Methodist Episcopal (just to name a few!). I find it endearing that many of my Christian friends worry about my soul as a Presbyterian and would like me to come over to their side. I put my trust in God and believe with all my heart that we are all God’s children!
Practicing the Christian faith is a delicate balance and it’s easy to fall off into legalism or easy forgiveness. God’s law is a light unto our path and God’s grace frees us from our sins and calls us to something better. It’s God who sanctifies us through the Holy Spirit and God who offers the grace. And God’s love is for everybody. God’s goodness and mercy pursue us, and when we experience both goodness and mercy at once, then we sense that God’s will can be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Whenever we celebrate communion at church, my thoughts turn to Christian unity. When Jesus instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion he instructed his disciples to break bread and drink wine together in remembrance of him. I look forward to heaven when people from all walks of life saved by grace and called to love will be together in the presence of Jesus!
Sometimes my heart breaks because we don’t all recognize each other as Christians in communion with one another. I remind myself, that my own church probably gets many things wrong, but there’s one thing our ministers often say that fills me with tremendous hope for Christian unity: Everyone who believes in Christ is welcome to the table! The generous invitation offered by my ministers probably leaves everyone around me wondering: “What’s she crying about?” Um, that would be me, just praying for unity for those who love God! As I illustrated the passage below, I wondered why I am so moved by this prayer, and I remembered that this is something Jesus prayed for, too: “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Amen!