“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. Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
I am, as you know, an evangelist. Many people believe that the job of an evangelist is to go around converting people to Christianity. It isn’t. The job is simply to present the good news to people so that they can make an intelligent choice whether to accept Jesus Christ or to reject him. This wouldn’t be so hard were it not for other people, who also call themselves evangelists, who tell people that they shouldn’t listen to me, because I am misguided (or whatever), but to listen to them! And, then, the third evangelist shows up and says both of us are wrong and he is right. What do you think the unbeliever is gonna think?
This is why our Lord Jesus made the prayer we heard today: “Father, let them be one as we are one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me!” How is the world going to believe anything we say when we are so divided! So, is there a solution? I am sure there are many, but let me say what God has put it in my heart to say today. Let us first realize that Christian unity is not Christian uniformity. As long as there are people, there will be differences, and consequently disagreements, which can lead to a parting of ways.
Even Paul and Barnabas — stalwarts in the early church — “had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company” (Acts 15:39). But, see, they didn’t go bashing each other after that. They just continued to proclaim Christ and his message of salvation, and people came to the faith in the thousands. And this is it, really. If we can just stop putting one another down, and just stick to proclaiming the gospel of Christ with hearts of love that he says we should have we will have people coming to the faith in thousands again.
Too simplistic, you say? Why? There are doctrines and dogmas that we all believe in, and as a Catholic I believe in some of them myself, but I don’t insist you do. In fact, I don’t even suggest you do. Do you ever see me shoving doctrines down your throat? All I do is break the word of Christ to the best of the wisdom and ability he has given me, and leave the rest to him. This is God’s work, not mine, and many of us fail to realize this. We think it is up to us to make people believe, and if they don’t believe what we believe, then WE get mad and upset and start acting more like the devil than like Christ. True or false?
I have realized that whenever Christians of different cultures and colors and countries and creeds, but united in one Spirit, come together, we make a compelling witness of Christ’s love to the world. And when this happens I am reminded of this scene from a movie I once saw. Several people are gathered together celebrating Christmas one cold winter evening. Despite the cold, their faces are bathed with a warmth that can come only from love for each other. Pressed against a window, looking in, are two faces of a couple, wishing they could be part of the good cheer. A little girl inside the house notices them and tells them to come in. And two more faces are bathed with warmth.
That’s how it can be with us. All it takes is a little love.
God bless you.