I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:20-23 HCSB)
From the looks of the title, you may be thinking that I am forcing subjects together that really have nothing to do with each other. I don’t think this is the case. Unity and the Christian’s role as regards the government are practically inseperable. They go together like cement and bricks or male and female or wine and cheese (and what a real winner it was who decided to eat mold and drink old grape juice at the same time). There is a connection between Christian political involvement and unity. It is this connection that I am going to attempt to make clear today.
I am going to begin by speaking on the issue of unity. This is something that is very much misunderstood in our postmodern age. The appointment of an openly gay bishop in the Episcopal church just recently is a good example of our misunderstanding of unity. When all the controversy was going on over this appointment, a female bishop made the statement, “In the case of heresy or schism, always choose heresy”. Anyone with any size brain can see the lunacy of this comment. It is akin to saying, “In a case of wrong or right, always choose wrong”. That is just plain stupid. But this is our age’s idea of unity.
Christian unity is something much more than this, though. Let’s pick apart our passage for today and see just what Christian unity entails. We will focus mainly on verse 21.
“May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You…”
The first thing to note about Christian unity is that we are to model that of the Son and the Father. We are to be in each other. This means that there is to be some kind of intimate connection between us and our fellow Christians. We are to work with and through each other to accomplish the goal that God has placed before us, namely, the evangelization of the entire world.
I pause here for a moment in discussing unity to dispel another misunderstanding that we have here in modern Christianity. There seems to be a notion among, particularily, Reformed Christians that a missionary needs to be a trained, licensed, ordained minister. That someone can’t do missionary work (even short term stuff) unless this is the case. Nowhere in Scripture is this idea promoted.
I am not against formal training for our missionaries. In fact, I think, to some extent, this is a good thing, but at the same time, missionary work should be done in faith. We are not given the responsibility of taking American Consumerist religion to the people of other countries. We are given the responsibility of taking the gospel to them. Sometimes, in other countries, the church is going to look different than the way we may think it should. To one degree or another, the church needs to be a fit with the surrounding culture. I am not saying that it should trade absolute truth for being culturally relevant, but that we can’t force American styles of worship on other cultures. That goes way beyond the call that a missionary is given.
This being said, there would be more unity among the variotions of the gospel that are being presented worldwide if we would stop trying to take our brand of Christianity abroad and start sharing the gospel that the Bible protrays. Someone may think that rock music is the devil’s music and that it has no place in the Christian’s church, but believing this and promoting this is not going to change anything in a culture where they don’t even listen to rock music. And we can’t take organ music to a culture that has no access to the instruments that we have. We are only called to take the gospel to these people and nothing else. The style of worship will work itself out as God leads.
We can take this idea that Jesus is protraying in this passage to another level from the individual to the denomination, and we will do so. We are called, Scripturally, to work with other denominations. If Jesus is praying for our unity, than denominational divides become nothing more than man-made divisions. We have no right to be seperating over issues that really don’t matter.
We, as Christians, have to be willing to work with people outside of our particular faith tradition. This may mean a Presbyterian and a Catholic working together to build a house for Habitat for Humanity or a Baptist and a Pentecostal working together to plant a church. There is nothing wrong with working with people who believe differently than we do. It is prejudice that says it is wrong to work with people of other faith traditions in the Christian community, and Jesus did what was needed to remove prejudice when He died on the cross.
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. (Ephesians 2:14-16 ESV)
“…May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.”
There is one more aspect to unity that we need to address today, and that is the issue of where our unity is found. Our unity is not found despite something, but is found because of someone. Our unity is found because of what Christ did. If Christ “broke down…the dividing wall of hostility” then why is there still hostility? Christ made a way for all types of people to be saved. Doesn’t it stand to reason that Christ made a way for us to work with all types of Christians?
I will pick up here next time and deal with the Christian’s involvement with the government and it’s connection with unity. May God continue to reform all of us into the way that He would have us.