” 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. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6
I believe that God hears my prayers on the merits of the righteousness of Christ. Nevertheless, I am at many times unsure that I am praying in absolute agreement with the perfect will of God simply due to my finiteness and God’s infinitude. “For we do not know what to pray for as we ought.” (Rom. 8:26).
There is, however, prayer that I can have unreserved confidence in. And that is the prayers of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ prayer recorded in John 17 is worth an extended time of meditation and reflection. His words gives a privileged look into that perfect and sacred communion that never cease to exist between the Father and the Son. It also brings into focus the deep longings of Christ’s heart. And what we begin to discover is Jesus’ very passionate concern for the unity of His church.
A lack of humility, gentleness and patience are clearly major boundaries and threats to the unity of the church. And sadly it is precisely these Christ-like virtues that are absent in much of our public and private discourse. Humility of heart recognizes a truly critical reality: Our blindness. Because of the effects of sin, you and I have an inability to see truth clearly. Furthermore, we are influenced by preconceptions and past experiences, which leads us to see things from a skewed perspective. It is these realities that necessitate that we patiently bear (endure) with one another in love. Unity is preserved through a personal acknowledgement of ignorance, while possessing a willingness to overlook the ignorance of others. The answer is not separation from those with whom we disagree in the body of Christ. It is in over-committing to your brother and sister with whom it is difficult to see eye to eye, and recognizing our mutual need for each other’s perspective, patience and forgiveness.
Practically, this means seeking out those individuals with whom you disagree concerning politics and social issues. It means listening and talking to brothers and sisters who hold a different view on masks and vaccines…and afterwards praying with one another for wisdom and compassion. It means choosing love and mercy over anger and unforgiveness.
Christian, please listen: You must lead and provide an alternative to the intolerant, mean-spirited approach so pervasive in our culture today.
We must do so for the glory of Christ. We must do so if we are to experience His joy in our hearts. And we must live our lives striving to protect the unity in the church in response to our Savior’s prayer.