Love, forgiveness, peace, unity and mercy are all common beliefs and teachings which set the Christian faith apart from other beliefs and religions. However, confined within the different denominations of the Christian faith are small ‘civil wars’ which divide the believers in Jesus Christ as opposed to bringing them together in unity.
“I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:20-23 NAB)
The prayer Jesus Christ prayed for unity among believers is a prayer which many religious leaders within the Christian faith and across denominational lines are asking believers to take seriously, and act upon the call to unity.
Pope Francis said sin has separated Christians and it is now time to overcome sin and become one as Jesus prayed.
“Who is at fault?” Pope Francis said. “All of us are, we are all sinners. There is only one who is just and that is the Lord. Let’s allow our longing to increase so that it propels us to find each other, embrace each other and to praise Jesus Christ as the only Lord of history.”
“The Bible places an extraordinary emphasis on the value of unity. Let us not lose focus on the Word’s powerful calls to peace and unity. Jesus prayed for the ‘oneness’ of all those who profess to believe on him through the testimony of the apostles,” Max Lucado, best- selling author and pastor of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, TX, said. “Those who take seriously their claim of faith in Christ will work conscientiously for unity among fellow believers. They will not celebrate differences that segment people into warring factions that disgrace the name of Christ and the oneness of the Christian cause. With all the calls for purity in the church, let us not lose the equally powerful calls to peace and unity.”
First Baptist Church of Atlanta pastor, and best-selling author, Charles Stanley reintegrates the dangers of division among Christians.
“Scripture is clear about the church’s mission. Some of its highest goals include sharing the gospel with all nations, caring for those in need, and worshipping together, along with loving, encouraging and admonishing one another in God’s truth,” Stanley said. “None of these is fully possible if a church is divided, whether physically or mentally.”
Stanley references Ephesians 4:3 in speaking of the need for unity to be obtained through peace within Christians.
“God wants His people to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace,” Stanley said. “So if all Christians base their beliefs on the Bible, they should be able to settle every argument according to truth, right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Our human nature, preferences, and different interpretations of Scripture can cause disagreements. Consider, for example, how many churches have experienced strife over music style. Tragically, when differences are divisive, our mission becomes blurred and we are ineffective. Just as fishermen cannot catch fish with a broken net, we are unable to effectively share Jesus with the world when our fellowship is not intact,” Stanley said
Issues such as music style (as referenced by Stanley), sprinkling or submersion for baptism, speaking in tongues, preaching style, and even down to the color of new carpet has cut churches down the middle and caused separations, church splits, and divisions.
Perhaps the division is present and hinders much of the work of Christians worldwide, but the ultimate question is how do Christians rise above the division and become one. How do Christians fulfill the prayer of Jesus Christ to become one? Even more, the question arises as to if you are among those working toward unity or assisting in division.