Do you want an argument? Go public with your views on anything and someone will disagree, Brexit is an obvious example but there are so many contentious issues. Some of these arguments lead to hatred, as we saw this weekend in El Paso when it seems someone killed large numbers of people because they were Hispanic.
Christians are so good at disagreeing we have managed to break into 40,000 different denominations. We can be incredibly self-righteous, as if our view is the only one, and yet God tells us to humble ourselves. We know that Jesus wanted unity in His Church, let’s remind ourselves of His words at the last supper, ‘My prayer is not for them 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 – 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 17:20 – 23
Let us be very clear. Jesus wants us to be one. Through unity we experience the oneness of the trinity and we give credibility to the gospel. John tells us Jesus wants us to love one another, with practical concern and actions “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” John 3.16 – 18. John keeps repeating the phrase over and over – we must love one another. This is not just about love in our particular church, love is across the different expressions of church across the whole church, all God’ s people.
Paul gets caught up in one of the great disputes in early church history as he constantly faces opposition from people who do not like his work with the gentiles. He addresses this in 1 Timothy 1: 3 – 5, “Command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’ s work, which is by faith. The goal of this command is love.”
He goes further in Ephesians 3:6 “This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.”
Unity is much more than “let’ s all gather in a field once a year and sing songs and share a picnic.” The word for together is “syn” which means complete commitment and trust (the root of the word synergy). Our model is the trinity, three different persons in one, working together, honouring and releasing each other. This is the togetherness of the family, we may disagree, we may value or like different things but we will never let each other down.
We are seeing a remarkable global work of God as He brings His church together. Whether it be in united prayer gatherings in Teesside, Manchester, Nottingham and many other places. In Bath at Lent, people come together in their villages and neighbourhood from across the churches to study and pray together, at other times they collaborate to bless the city and bring people to Christ. In smaller places like Evesham they provide regular prayer cover, in Skipton churches all preached around the same theme, “Do you know him?” Globally, the whole church is on the streets, running festivals, serving the city and where there is real togetherness God is bringing many to Christ.
So this month we are praying for unity and close with some key points:
- Unity is being one, being together, being committed.
- Togetherness is across the generations – committed to releasing each other.
- Togetherness is across the many different races God has brought into our United Kingdom. We have a way to go, Lord make us one.
- Togetherness is having different political beliefs and theologies, but unity at the cross – we disagree in love and worship together in unity.
- Togetherness resists the spirit of anger, judgement, tension, bitterness and disagreement in the world. We show a kingdom spirit – we do not let issues fester, we forgive, we bless, we are generous. We love like Jesus loves.