Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the three-year lectionary.
In this week’s Gospel reading, Jesus, praying for his people, prays especially for their unity. Their unity, in John 17:21, is like that of the Father and the Son. It is centered on the glory of God, which, in verse 22, has been given to those who believe in Jesus. It is also based on the name of God and his love, given to them.
Sadly, we often develop a low view of unity in Christ. Instead of gathering around God’s redemptive love in Christ, we gather around our common interests or common backgrounds. We fail to realize that the body of Christ, with all its diversity of age, cultural background, and language, is unified by its common confession of faith in Christ, God the Son, who is the one who reconciled the world to God by his death in our place. This is the common confession of the Church through history and in every culture. We are gathered, then, in a unity prepared by God, not by us.
This is why it is a failure when Christians emphasize their differences rather than their confessional unity. We are to be one in Christ. That means when people make ethnic or nationalist assertions about the Church they are falling short of their Lord’s call for unity. In my own church body I have heard and seen this. It is not always said in terms our broader culture would recognize easily. The presence of a national flag in a church suggests a special allegiance to that nation. Statements like “We are the church for young people” or “We aren’t your grandfather’s church” or even, “We’re the Norwegians, not the Saxons” describe our fractious attitude. Jesus prayes that we may be one, united around Him, regardless of all our other identifying marks. Christ crucified for sinners pulls us together in one true church that welcomes sinners to partake of Jesus’ forgiveness. May we be one.
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