by Dorette Saunders
Today begins “The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” (January 18-25), with its theme: Do good; seek justice. The week encourages Christians to pattern Jesus’ prayer for his followers by striving for unity among themselves. In his prayer to his Father, Jesus said:
I am not praying just for these followers. I am also praying for everyone else who will have faith because of what my followers will say about me. I want all of them to be one with each other, just as I am one with you and you are one with me. I also want them to be one with us. Then the people of this world will believe that you sent me” (John 17:20, 21, CEV).
Jesus was praying for unity within the body of Christ. How can we be connected to Christ if there is division among those who bear his name? We, who are many parts, are called to be one, joined by Christ, the head of the body.
The apostle Paul repeats the call for unity by telling us explicitly:
“My dear friends, as a follower of our Lord Jesus Christ, I beg you to get along with each other. Don't take sides. Always try to agree in what you think” (1 Corinthians 1:10, CEV).
And while agreement may not come easily to many of us, we can at least be respectful and agree to disagree.
In a world that prides itself on individualism, Christian unity may sound intrusive, restrictive, or even frightening. But, it need not be. Unity does not mean we are homogeneous. Far from it, we come together in all our diversity, with glorious gifts and talents that we have received from God himself. These gifts are not ours only, but are to be shared with those who need to see and feel God’s holy presence at work in the world around them. We are witnesses of God’s power, and our mandate is clear.
The Lord God has told us
what is right
and what he demands:
“See that justice is done,
let mercy be your first concern,
and humbly obey your God.”
(Micah 6:8, CEV)
Too often our silence and social inertia have made us complicit by maintaining the status quo. We allow our brothers and sisters to be oppressed and be treated unjustly. That is not what God wants.
We are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ keeper, and we are called to do good works, and to show mercy. Not in our own strength, but in the strength that comes from God. It is in God’s strength that we gain confidence and are empowered to carry out God’s commands.
We are called to point out injustice, racism, and oppression, and speak out against such behaviors. And where possible, we should take steps to eradicate it. If, as Christians, we are united in our mission, if we are at one with each other, and with Christ Jesus, then the world will truly know that we belong to God.
PRAYER: God, grant us wisdom that we may embrace unity wholeheartedly. That we may see beyond our differences and catch a glimpse of what you want your people to be—diverse yet dutiful in keeping your commands. Help us to pursue peace, and have a passion for justice that we may be one with each other, and one with you. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.