Have you ever noticed that when you get with people of other denominational backgrounds or belief systems about how the Christian faith is to be expressed that tensions can rise rather quickly. You may believe that the creation of the world took place in 7 literal days and your brother/sister thinks that the creation story took place over thousands of years, each day represents a period of time rather than a 24 hour period of time, and as you talk tensions rise and the conversation becomes heated. Your friendship actually becomes tense and now it’s more like you’re distant cousins rather than brothers and sisters.
Have you noticed that with that same person you can have a conversation about Jesus, the broken state of our world and how Jesus is the answer for healing and hope and end up feeling connected and brought together rather than separated. There is an understanding of a mutual longing for others to know Jesus and there is hope placed in Him.
In John chapter 17 Jesus prays a prayer for all believers starting with verse 20: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
It makes my heart sad that there are so many things that divide us as brothers and sisters in the family of God. People allow a difference of opinion or various interpretations of Scripture to be things that divide them into segmented groups who use their various beliefs to make an us and them mentality.
Jesus was very concerned with right belief. He very much taught that He was/is the way, truth and life, He was/is the gate, He was/is our entry point to God the Father. His life represented the way to follow after and elevated love to a monumental level. Loving God, self and others was/is the heart of Jesus for the world and He desired/s the world to see that love represented by those who follow after Him. “I pray that they would be one.”
I wonder what it would look like if you and I would live like Jesus and put Jesus as the center point. He would become the unifying point, rather than a belief on this or that, that divides.
I’m not saying that doctrine and theology isn’t important. In fact I have strong beliefs that come out of my understanding of Scripture. But, when doctrine and theology trump relationship and people cast others aside because they don’t look at things the same way, we cease to follow after the way of Jesus.
Jesus, met people where they were and walked with them to new places of belief and practice.
I have an intense desire to see those who follow after Jesus reunited, to be reminded of Jesus’ desire for us to be one and put our belief in Him first. I believe that when we look at ourselves with sober judgement as Paul invites us to do in Romans 12 that we might be surprised what we could learn from those who see the practice of following Jesus with a different view.
Jesus is central. He is the answer and He is the model, the truth and the life. Dream with me for a little bit about loving a person through the eyes of Jesus, rather than through a doctrinal statement.
How would you interact differently with others who follow Jesus?
Do you have thoughts? What do you think Jesus’ prayer for all believers in John 17 looks like today?