Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Penny for Your Thoughts

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

-- Romans 15:5

If we're to believe The Fun Times Guide website, the United States Mint produces more than 13 billion pennies per year. And each lowly cent features biblical truths that we should not overlook.

First, the penny was one of the first Pennycoins of the United States to include the motto "In God We Trust." Now look at the coin's reverse side. It's there that 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.

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

Here's where the Bible lesson comes in: The Church--meaning all the Christ-followers on Earth--is also a place of immense diversity. Believers come from different religious traditions and have a broad range of preferences regarding worship music and sermon style. The Church is also a place where all races are welcome and present. It mingles the rich, the poor and the middle class. But what unites them all--or at least should bring them together--is a common faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. As the saying goes: "Level is the ground beneath the cross."

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 Believers in the centuries to come: 

"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."

Christ's prayer links the dusty streets of 1st Century Israel with the crowded superhighways of modern North America and Europe...and everywhere in between. But exactly how will Jesus' Church be made whole? It starts with a common focus on Him rather than a reliance on the world. What then will spring forth is unity--not uniformity. It's in this same spirit that we should embrace the Apostle Paul's admonition 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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