Why is it that the world is not drawn to Jesus?
The reasons are many, but I want to hone in on just one today: Unity!
One of Jesus’ last recorded prayers before He went to the cross is this: “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21 NLT)
In this famous prayer, Jesus is hinting at the truth that unity in the church will help a lost and hurting world understand that God did, indeed, send Jesus!
In my communications with people from other religions, I am saddened by the many examples they mention of disunity amongst Christians. They point out how there are so many different Christian denominations and cults, and they wonder how they are ever supposed to believe in the Bible when Christians can’t even agree on what it teaches. They remind me of the crusades, where Jews and Muslims were murdered in cold blood, all in the name of Jesus Christ. They ask why they should want what Christians have when what they see is disunity, unforgiveness, jealousy and bigotry in the church. What am I supposed to say? Anything but “guilty” would be less than the truth…How can I tell them of Jesus’ love, when they don’t see it amongst Christians?
In a recent trip to Tasmania, we had the privilege of visiting a small catholic church. My husband and I made up about a 5th of the total congregation, and we were very blessed by the message given by the priest. When it came time for communion, however, the priest refused serve me. His reason? I was not catholic.
A few weeks later, while visiting the Australian outback, we had the privilege of visiting another tiny church. This congregation did everything in their power to reach out to the indigenous people of Australia, and about half of those who attended that Sunday were of indigenous backgrounds. I was delighted to see this. However, I noticed that the indigenous people were segregated from the British-background Australians, and immediately the words of the Apostle James came to mind: “If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, ‘Here’s a good seat for you,’ but say to the poor man, ‘You stand there’ or ‘Sit on the floor by my feet,’ have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:3). Not knowing anything about indigenous culture, I immediately went into action and I sat down beside a lovely old aboriginal lady. To my utmost shock, she soon got up and moved to another place…I have no idea what cultural barriers I overstepped in sitting beside that lady, and I don’t pretend to point a finger of blame at anyone in the church building. But the bottom line was that although the indigenous people were attending, there was no unity between them and the British-background Australians.
These two incidences saddened me. Not because I felt that the catholic priest treated me as less-than-Christian. I understand that it was his strong belief and conviction that I, not being Catholic, should not partake of communion, and I do not judge him for this. I also did not feel put down when the aboriginal lady moved away from me. I understood that there were cultural lines that I had inadvertently crossed. Nor was I saddened to have found this in Australia, for such examples are, sadly, very commonplace throughout North America and Europe as well. What saddened me is that as the church at large, we are not one in Christ…
There was this other place in Australia, however, that is worthy of mention when it comes to the subject of unity…We were visiting a little wildlife preserve in the town of Bagara in the state of Queensland, when we happened upon a pond. The pond was home to thousands of water birds, and for a while we enjoyed photographing the cattle egrets, the snowy egrets, the coots, the ducks, the black swans, the pelicans and the herons. An island in the middle of the pond soon caught our attention, however. Every tree on the tiny island was absolutely covered with birds; but what truly amazed us was that each tree held a variety of different bird species, all roosting together!
Now I’ve raised birds, and I know that different bird species generally do not mix. I’ve also visited a number of different wild bird roosting areas, and again, they are each specie-specific. Yet there, on that tiny island in the middle of the pond in Bagara, Queensland, were at least 8 different species of water birds, all roosting together in the same trees…
Friends, the church needs to take lessons from these wild birds: we need to stand in unity with one another. If we do not, we will fall; and the watching, unsaved world will have no reason to be drawn to Jesus Christ.
My prayer for today? “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one–as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21 NLT)
Just one more thought. We can’t change everyone. We can only change ourselves…But if each of us would try for unity, the church would be able to stand as one…
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, andScriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, withAnswers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.