"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
Is unity among Christ-followers really that important? Santa Claus once thought so. And he even went to jail over it.
Well...it wasn't really Santa Claus--with the red suit, elves and reindeer. Instead, it was St. Nicholas who stood up for this biblical principle. (When you hear Santa called "Jolly Old Saint Nick," think of him.)
What does this have to do with Christian unity? The St. Nicholas Center website reports that back in AD 325, Emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea (a gathering of more than 300 bishops) to address one of the church's most intense theological questions: the nature of the Trinity. Arias, a churchman from Alexandria in Egypt, declared that Jesus was just a prophet and therefore not equal to God the Father. Bishop Nicholas--enraged at this blasphemous attack on Christ--jumped to his feet, crossed the room and struck Arias in the face!
Several of the bishops grabbed Nicholas, stripped him of his bishop's robes and had him thrown in the dungeon in chains. But later, the Council agreed with Nicholas' viewpoint and ruled against Arias. Emerging from the Council of Nicaea was the Nicene Creed, which to this day millions of Christians recite during worship to proclaim their belief in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.
Christ-followers have had their disagreements and differences since the very early days of the church. The Book of Acts even tells us that Paul called out his fellow apostle, Peter, for his acts of hypocrisy when dealing with fellow believers of certain backgrounds. (Some things really haven't changed much over the years!) Yet for all of our differences, we share at least one thing that both unifies and distinguishes us from everyone else on Earth. It's our fervent belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. And it's this same common faith that helps us share in the joys of life while overcoming the many struggles, disappointments and even tragedies that we all face along our unique faith-journeys.
As a diverse group of Christ-followers sharing in a single, incredible relationship, we're to be unified because we're all for One. But more important still is that we know there's One who is for us all.