Today is Martin Luther King Day and tomorrow the inauguration of Barack Obama – both celebrations of extraordinary events that have already and will continue to change the world in which we live. The blogosphere is alive with commentary and analysis of what is happening. But there is another historic event occurring this week that most of us are not even aware of. This week is also a week of prayer for unity within the church and I suspect that in God’s economy it is the prayers that we offer up for love and unity and respect, this week that really hold the keys to how much will be accomplished in other realms. As I read the discourse flying around the internet I realize how much we need unity within the church and amongst all who call themselves followers of Christ.
Some Christians see the events of these days as a wonderful celebration of God’s ongoing work in our world. Others are more inclined to view the events as a sign of the evil of the times in which we live. Everyone thinks that their viewpoint is the only right way to interpret these events.
The question that comes to my mind was one posed by Nadia Bolz-Weber author of Salvtion on the Small Screen, at a small gathering we held last Friday evening at which Nadia shared about her experiences watching Christian television for 24 hours straight. People’s reactions to Christian television are as diverse as their reactions to what is going on in the world over these important days. Some see the televangelists as God’s tools for the proclamation of the gospel. Others see them as presenting a travesty of the gospel that ridicules and belittles the good news of Christ.
The question Nadia posed that brought me up short however was “Do we need each other?” Do liberals need conservatives and vice versa? Does God intentionally allow us to view life from opposite perspectives so that all that holds us together is the love of God and our respect for others that are made in God’s image?
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34) and “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 – 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.” (John 17:22, 23)
There has never been a time in which we have needed more for Christians to model the love of God and the unity of the body of Christ – unity that does not come from uniformity of belief but that comes from acceptance of the rich diversity that exists within Christ’s body. God did not make us all to look alike, to think alike or to act alike, but God does ask us to respond to each other in love – not necessarily to agree but to accept, not working for uniformity but for unity in the midst of our diversity.
I think that we do live in historic times. God wants to change the world into a place of mutual love and care where the hungry are fed, the oppressed are set free and justice comes for the poor. The biggest challenge we face this week is not how we respond to the inauguration of Barack Obama but rather how we respond to our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. Our biggest challenge is our willingness to open our hearts and our minds to look to listen and to learn rather than expecting to tell, to teach and to take over. If we really want others to know we are Christians by our love then we need to stop criticizing, dividing and seeking to conquer those who have different viewpoints about what it means to be a follower of Christ.
God may we see in your Oneness our need for unity,
God may we see in your Threeness our need for community
God may we see in your creativity our need for diversity,
God may we see in you our need to love each other