Today's Scripture Reading
22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
Jesus prayed that his followers may be one, just as Jesus and God are one. This oneness among Jesus’ followers is important. It is the way that the world will know the amazing faithful love of God. Sadly, the history of the followers of Jesus down through history is not one of unity. So the founders of the Stone-Campbell tradition of which the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) is part focused a lot on the unity of believers.
We’ve talked a lot about unity in Nashville this week at the biennial General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Our unity is based in Christ, not in uniform beliefs or practices. We understand that faithful people and faithful communities of faith can disagree on theology and politics and still be united in Christ. We believe we can stay in loving relationship with people we disagree with. So we attempted this week to have some challenging conversations about issues such as war and immigration in ways that respect the personhood of all involved without trying to force uniformity. We engaged these issues because the people of God have been commanded to live in communities of justice as the acceptable fast to our loving God (Isaiah 58:1-9). So we talk together as a community which gathers at the same communion table, a table to which Christ invites any and all. In the Spirit’s presence, we risk the engagement. Perhaps if we can be united in Christ even in the midst of such conversation, we can work for justice and witness in the world to God’s love.
This isn’t easy. Certainly the dominant culture in the United States is not one of respectful dialog at this time in our history, so we don’t have a lot of practice at this outside of the church. And these issues are intensely personal. War, immigration, sexual orientation, bullying, abuse, environmental degradation for the economic gain of the few, racism, under-resourced schools – these are not just abstract issues, these are things that directly impact our own households and our neighborhoods no matter how we understand the issues. So we, gathered as church, worshipping together, can talk easily about our unity without uniformity in the abstract, but the real conversations are risky and painful.
Hear one woman, crying, talk about what she experienced when an anti-bullying resolution was presented before the Assembly two days ago. One minister spoke against the resolution because it decried bullying of even homosexual persons. To the woman, it seemed as though the minister was saying it is okay to bully such persons and she doesn’t understand that kind of hate, especially among the people of God. Then the woman tells of the young teenager who spoke after the minister. The teenager told of the regular bullying he and his friends endure, and did so with integrity and respect in the eyes of the woman. She continues to cry as she describes the boy’s testimony, this time in honor of his courage.
These conversations are truly risky and scary and painful. But the greater risk is that of not engaging in the conversations at all, of keeping silent on issues of injustice. Silence is complicity. Silence is not unity. Silence is not the acceptable fast. How will we tell the love of God to the world if we don’t lovingly struggle with issues of un-love? How will we tell it if we cannot live it in word and in deed?
Holy God, we are broken people and we work through broken institutions. Yet, for some reason, you expect us to reflect your love in the world. You ask us to live together in ways that honor your coming realm of wholeness and peace. This is so hard. We cannot do it unless you guide us, you strengthen us and sustain us. We need your courage, we need your healing, we need your forgiveness, so that we can love and forgive each other. We need your assurance so we can risk together and we need your endurance so that we may remain faithful. Help us.
This we pray in the name of your son, our Lord, Jesus.
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