“I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, 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. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23
I promised I’d write more today about Rebekah’s sermon from this past Sunday at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church. I honestly believe it is one of those messages that needs to go on the road, and be listened to by faith communities of all denominations; The title is: “Shhhhhh… Listen” (unfortunately, due to “technical difficulties” apparently it’s unavailable).
A DIRECT WORD FROM GOD: It’s my heartfelt conviction that there is not one single person – irrespective of where they find their niche on the shifting and subjective “left-right,” “conservative-progressive,” “I’m right, you’re wrong….” continuum – who could listen to Sunday’s message with care and an open spirit, and not find themselves recommitted to unity in Christ.
The sermon was/is a direct word from God about listening, about love, and about the important difference between uniformity and unity, between being like-minded and Christ-minded, between listening to the Spirit and listening to the loud clamoring of our own strident noise.
A very wise woman I know responded beautifully to the following question, “Why are you joining that church? I didn’t think you agreed with all their doctrine?”
“If we insisted on being in fellowship only with people who agree with us,” she said, “then pretty soon we’d all be in a church with a membership of one.”
OSWALD CHAMBERS: Currently I’m reading a biography of the renowned devotional writer, Oswald Chambers. His writing is almost universally accepted, enjoyed, and promoted across every conceivable Christian denomination. Early in his preaching career Chambers’ presentation was confrontational, bullying in tone, harsh, and judgmental. Then the Holy Spirit got a hold of him. Chambers didn’t necessarily change his views, he simply opened his heart and broadened his embrace; he made more room for love – a lot like Jesus.
While traveling in the USA, Chambers quoted his mentor Alexander Whyte (this is 1906 language): “Oh the detestable passions that corrections and contradictions kindle up to fury in the proud heart of man… Let them talk, let them write, let the correct you… let them judge and condemn you, let them slay you. Rather let the truth of God itself suffer than that love suffer. You have not enough of the divine nature in you to be a controversialist.”
In other words, even what we perceive as “truth” comes in a distant second to Christ-like love! People are going to disagree, and they are going to understand even the most straightforward of ideas in a variety of ways; such is the nature not only of humanity, but also of revelation.
If only we learned to listen to each other, and to respect the fact that no two people are the same, then we could grow together in faith, and journey together as brothers and sisters who are equally loved, equally forgiven, equally in need of healing.
The critical questions, then, are pretty-much, “Do I accept the saving grace of Jesus?” and, “Am I going to invite Jesus to be my companion and guide along the way?” Beyond that, the perceived need for consensus has more to do with our own pride, our own insecurity, our own limited perspective, our own desire to supplement God’s grace with (always a little more of) our own law.
The critical questions, then, are pretty-much, “Do I accept the saving grace of Jesus?” and, “Am I going to invite Jesus to be my companion and guide along the way?”
MY TAKE-AWAY: Back to Rebekah’s word from the Lord Sunday morning, here’s my take-away: When Jesus said that the world will know the truth about him, and be drawn back into relationship with God in response to the way that his followers love one-another, what he meant was that our primary responsibility as the church is to exhibit unity in Christ. Our opportunity – and this is why Oswald Chambers was quoting Alexander Whyte – is simply to introduce the world to the love of God in Jesus Christ.
“I give you a new commandment,” Jesus said, “that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” – John 13:34-35
As for “truth,” the invitation to know Jesus is really the only truth that is going to have any traction in eternity! God is more interested in reconciliation than in our nuanced version of “truth.”
If we fail to understand this, and feel driven to argue, to insist on uniformity, to promote factionalism, and to leave churches in order to find people who agree with us, then the world will see that the most important thing to us is not the saving grace of Jesus, and unity in Christ, but being right!
The world will see that the most important thing to Christians is not the saving love of Jesus, but being right!
Personally, I disagree with myself on a regular basis. Plus I’m likely wrong as often as I am right. How about you? – DEREK