I have written before about the friend of my parents who made her own paper and paint. She designed their Christmas cards for many, many years. Often the theme of the card was based on a vocal music concert her husband had directed. One of those cards hangs over my desk at home. The verse is Psalm 133:1,” How good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.” Right about now that seems unreachable, impossible, a pipe dream even. The only thing we seem to be united in is that we are not united. But what we are experiencing now is not new. It is as ancient as Cain and Able. Once sin crept into the world true unity has been unavailable to us. Even if you have only read the Book of Genesis you have seen plenty of disunity. Jacob and Esau come to mind. Over time it wasn't just brothers or families, it was entire countries. After King Solomon died the country of Israel was divided into two kingdoms. They did not know unity...at all. In fact, the remains of that disunity still existed in Jesus day. There were the pure Jews who lived in Judah, Jews who married other Jews. And there were the folks who lived in Samaria. They were Jews who had intermarried with non-Jews. The purists saw them as half breeds. The animosity was so great, the Jews from Judah would go to great lengths to not even get Samaritan dirt on their sandals. So much for unity.
Think what could happen in this world if we took the time we spent in disunity and worked instead to be unified. Because the truth is, as believers we are never told to become one. We already are one, united in the body of Christ. The challenge is to start acting like we are one. And, when we are so busy fighting one another then the enemy worms his way in and we have nothing left to fight him. The apostle Paul almost begs the church in Corinth to be united. Listen to 1 Corinthians 1:10, ”I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no division among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”
Jesus addresses the issue of unity as well. We read in John 13:35” By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Everywhere we look these days we see division. We see it in families, among friends, in our governments, sometimes churches, even nations are being torn apart. As those who bear Christ's name, we have a unique opportunity to lead by example. Is it possible to agree to disagree and work together for the common good...something bigger than ourselves? Paul reminds the Ephesians “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3.
We have been journeying through 2 Peter on Sunday mornings. And Peter, like Paul has a list of the things that show us how to live. These things help us finish well. They show what the fruit of having God's Spirit within us looks like. These things help us to live in unity, not disunity. Those fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. When Jesus says people will know His followers by their love, those things are how we show love. Love is patient and kind. It is not jealous or boastful. It is not proud or self-seeking. It does not dishonor others nor is it easily angered. Love keeps no record of wrongs. It rejoices in the truth. Love always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. Love never fails. This looks like a tall order. It feels like too much work. Many wonder how they could ever do this, and others wonder why they would even want go to so much work.
When we look at how folks are living right now, including some who call themselves Christians, many of the fruits of the Spirit are missing, rotten, long forgotten or put aside. This is our chance!!! This is our chance to show the world a better way. This is a chance to show people how much better it is to live in unity. It takes way less energy to be kind than it does to be angry. This is a chance to walk a mile in someone else's shoes. This is a chance to love like Jesus, not hate like the evil one. This is a chance to build someone up, not tear them down. This is a chance to work to find common ground. This is our chance to shine the bright light of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in a world that seems to be getting darker and darker.
Can we change the whole world? No, and that is not our job. We are called to change where we are, where we live. We are called to be Christlike to those we encounter. It isn't as hard as it seems. And we do not do this alone. Jesus has promised to be in the middle of all we do. We only need to let Him lead. Things work out much better that way!
In His grip
Pastor Matt W