Friday, January 29, 2016

Father, Make Us One

As I read through the book of Acts, unity seems to be a theme throughout the entirety of this written account of the early church.  They were in "one mind and one accord", "continued in one accord", "together in one accord," are phrases used to describe this group of early believers.  Then, we see supernatural works occurring among them on a regular basis.  I can't help but draw a connection between the two.  It appears certain to me that unity was a catalyst to an empowered church.
The church is a global entity today.  I'm wondering what possibilities there are should this global body of believers truly learn how to walk in unity?  What kind of force could we be in the earth today?  Of course, the first step would be to get the local body of believers to learn how to do this.  Let's face it, community is hard.  Afterall, in any gathering of people there are those that we find easy to get along with and others we would rather just smile and wave to from across the room.  Some you might enjoy going on vacation with and others you need to go on vacation to get away from.  And dare I say it, there are those individuals who you will cry at their funerals and those you will struggle to find something good to say when they die.  So, how in the world do you manage to be in unity when this is the case?  Perhaps one approach would be to just kick those out of the community we don't get along with.  Or, you could just go start a new community of people who you can get along with.  Now, surrounded with only people you find it easy to like you can finally be at peace and arrive at this goal of unity.  Somehow I'm thinking that's not God's idea of how we are to accomplish this unity thing.

Have you ever been double minded?  Have you ever wanted one thing one day and something different the next day?  Have you ever been conflicted when it comes to what you want?  The truth is we all encounter these moments in life.  Times when we are less than decisive.  And then when we make a decision we waver between whether or not we made the right decision. Let's face it, we struggle to be at one with ourselves, no wonder we struggle when we add more people to the mix.  Yet, the early church figured out how to do this.  They figured out how to walk in unity with one another and God blessed them and He moved mightily among them.     

Jesus, just prior to His arrest and crucifixion, prayed for His followers.  He prayed that they would be one. He also prayed for us:

20 “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; 21 that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: 23 I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. - (John 17:20-23)

Notice that the world's ability to recognize that Jesus was sent by God hinges on the church's determination to walk in unity. "That the world may believe that You sent Me."  Hmm....I'm wondering if the enemy understands this?  It would definitely seem so as he is so great at stirring up stuff in the church in order to keep us from walking in unity.  

God puts us in community with one another with the intent on teaching us to unconditionally love one another.  In that community, He places people of all sorts, from different backgrounds, with different personalities.  He puts intellectuals next to simple thinkers.  He puts those who have and those who need together.  He puts sports fanatics with those who hate sports.  He puts artistic types with those who don't get artistic types at all.  He puts those who have a family full of children in community with those who don't want any children.  He puts old, young, and middle aged people together who have little in common with one another.  He places those who have been set free with those who need freedom, those who are hurting with those who have been healed, and those who are new at this Christian journey with those who have been in it for 50 years.  He places those who are struggling with depression with those full of joy.  He puts those who are stoic with those who are animated.  He places those who are shy next to those who are outgoing.  He places the white collar worker with the blue collar worker. He puts stay-at-home moms with career women.  He puts liberal voters in the same community as conservative voters. He puts the bold and confident in community with the insecure.  

As I think about this, I can't help but think how in the natural this seems like a design destined for complete and utter failure. If anyone was looking to create a community that walked in unity this would not be the model.  Certainly God can see this will never result in a group of people walking in unity, right? On the surface this seems like a stage set for offense, division, and destruction.  But isn't that the whole point?  I mean, if this group can walk in unity, doesn't God have to be at work among them?  You and I both know that there is no way in the natural any group of people made up  with this kind of diversity could ever find a way to discover how to walk in unity.  It would take an act of God.  And that's exactly what Jesus was asking for when He prayed that God would make us one!  He was asking for an act of God.  The kind of miracle that would have those on the outside scratching their head. The unity that God longs for us to walk in is a unity made possible only by Him. 

Do you struggle to love someone that is difficult to love? Then you are in a prime position for God to move in your life.  Do you struggle to get along with that person across the room?  Then you are in the right place for an act of God. God can help you walk in unity.  With man, this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.  You can walk in unity with those you cannot stand, but you will never do it on your own. Jesus understood that the key to walking in unity was prayer.  It is no different for you and I. To walk in unity with one another, we must petition God to help us. The choice to walk in unity begins when we humble ourselves and ask God for help.  Too often times we would rather just dismiss those we struggle with as idiots, unlovable, or messengers from satan sent to torment us.  So we run off looking for another community because certainly there is one with people I can stand to be around.  All the while God is longing for us to grow in our ability to have authentic relationships with people who just might drive us up the wall.  

The early church was as diverse as we are today.  I'm sure there were some hiccups when Matthew the tax collector joined Christ's circle of 12.  Paul was an educated man, while Peter, Andrew, James and John were simple fishermen. Stephen spoke with boldness like a prophet, Thomas struggled to believe, Lydia was a Greek who sold purple cloth, Timothy was young, Onesimus was a slave, Cornelius was a Gentile, Aquila and Priscilla were tentmakers, Philip was an evangelist, Rhoda was a young girl, and Mary was an older woman.  In that early church were former Pharisees, a former sorcerer, a former harlot, a jailer, a eunuch, a judge, soldiers, widows, etc. Yet, with all their diversity, it is said of these early believers that they were in one accord.  Oh, that it would be said of the church today that we are of one mind and one accord.  Perhaps when that happens, we'll see the kind of results the early church experienced.  I for one will be joining with the prayer of Jesus. Father, make us one!!!   


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