What would happen if we obeyed Jesus' instruction to believers to become one? Just before Jesus' crucifixion he prayed for the disciples and all those who would believe on his name. He prayed that we would be one just as he and the Father are one. (John 17:11-23)
~ "Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one." (verse 11)
~ "My prayer is not for them alone. 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." (verses 20-21)
~ "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." (verses 22-23)
What would the body of Christ in America look like today if we lived according to the appeal of this prayer? What would happen if we put aside our differences of peripheral beliefs, stopped public and private nitpicking and served one another in love according to Jesus' example? What would happen if we sought peace and unity in the body of Christ rather than arguing, belittling or seeking to discredit one another because of differences of belief? I see no honor, no glory - no Christ-likeness in this picture.
I can hear the apostle Paul 's chastisement of the American church today, not unlike his chastisement of the church of Corinth as recorded in 1 Corinthians 1: "I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, 'I follow Paul'; another, 'I follow Apollos'; another, 'I follow Cephas'; still another, 'I follow Christ.' Is Christ divided?"
My paraphrase is as follows: "I follow Calvinism"; "I follow Wesleyianism"; "I'm a Baptist"; "I'm a Presbyterian"; "I'm a Pentecostal"; "I'm non-denominational"; "I'm evangelical"; "I speak in tongues", "I don't believe in speaking in tongues"; "I believe in keeping the Sabbath"; "I believe Sunday is the Lord's day"; "I believe in tithes"; "I believe tithes is of the Old Covenant"; "I believe in the assembly of the believers (church)"; "I don't believe in the assembly of the believers (church)". "I don't believe in celebrating Christmas. That's not the day Christ was actually born. Rather I believe in celebrating Christ every day." "I believe in celebrating Christmas"; "I believe drinking alcoholic beverages is fine for Christians"; "I don't believe Christians should drink alcohol"; "I believe in miracles today"; "I believe miracles were for the New Testament Church"; "I believe without water baptism one can't be saved"; "I believe water baptism is the demonstration or symbolic act depicting salvation"; and the list goes on.
Rather than focusing on our differences of belief and causing divisions and discrediting the name of the Lord, are we not to focus on that which unites us in faith and promotes peace and unity? Is not the unifying crux of our faith - Christ, born of the virgin Mary; was without sin; suffered and died on the cross to redeem us from sin and death; was resurrected on the third day; that he is the only way, the truth and the life, no one gets to the Father except through him (John 14:6); that it's not by works that we are saved but through faith in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:8,9); that we must confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead for salvation (Romans 10:9,10); that we are commissioned to go and make disciples of all nations according to Matthew 28:18-20; and that Jesus is coming back again for his bride, the holy church that is without stain or wrinkle (Ephesians 5:27), and that without holy living no one shall see God (Hebrew 12:14)? Not forgetting one more important truth upon which all of the above hinges upon: that we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. If we do not believe the Bible is the Word of God, then we have no foundation for Christianity at all.
Does my appeal for unity sound too simplistic? Is not the message of the cross simple so that anyone, even a child can understand and believe? Does my appeal sound foolish (and not mine but Jesus' really, for it is he who prayed that we would be one even as he and the Father are one)?
For the sake of peace and unity, let's adhere to the principle of the following instructions from Paul:
1) "Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters... Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification... So whatever you believe about these things (disputable matters) keep between yourself and God." (Romans 14:1-22)
2) "We who are strong out to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself... May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." (Romans 15:1-6)
3) "Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God." (Romans 15:7)
Pray and teach as Jesus did, that we would be one, that we would be unified. Then the world will know that Jesus is the Christ, the Savior, the only begotten Son of God that was sent into the world to demonstrate the love of God for humanity.
The spirit of unity generates peace, love and power. The enemy's ploy is to cause division, destruction and dishonor. Choose to be one.