Sunday, May 5, 2013

United We Stand

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity
among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus.

-- Romans 15:5     

A good Bible lesson might be jingling in your pants pockets or hiding under your sofa cushions.

Take a look at a quarter and you'll see the phrase E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "out of many, one." An early motto of the United States, it signifies that our nation was founded when the 13 original colonies united behind the common cause of liberty. The Founding Fathers from Massachusetts often clashed politically and socially with their compatriots in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Georgia. But they put aside their many differences to write the Declaration of Independence, win the Revolutionary War and eventually ratify the Constitution. Quarter

Out of 13 small, divergent colonies was born a great nation, which today boasts more than 300 million people representing dozens of cultures. From San Francisco's Chinatown to New York City's Little Italy, it's no wonder that the United States is called The Great Melting Pot.

And that's where the Bible lesson comes in: The Church--meaning all the Christ-followers on Earth--is also a place of immense diversity. Christ-followers come from different religious traditions, have different preferences in worship music and distinct likes and dislikes regarding sermon styles. The church is a place where all races are welcome and present. It mingles the rich, the poor and everyone in between. But what unites them all--or at least what should unite them--is a common faith and focus on Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As the saying goes, "The ground beneath the cross is level."

And that's just the way God wants it. Shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus prayed to His Father about the Church--meaning not only His original followers, but also those in the centuries to follow: 

"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."

Jesus' prayer spans the dusty streets of 1st Century Jerusalem to present day Christ-followers across the globe. And how do we unify His Church? It all starts with a common focus on Him and resting our faith on God's power rather than man's wisdom. What then springs forth is unity--not uniformity.

Let's take the first step by embracing the Apostle Paul's words from 2,000 years ago to some of the earliest Christ-followers:

"Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another," he wrote to the Colossians. "Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity."

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