This week is the designated time to pray for Christian unity. Begun in 1908, the universal church of Jesus Christ has asked that all Christ followers, no matter the denominational affiliation, to pray for unity. We are taking seriously Jesus’ prayer from John 17:20-24.
“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.”
Pope Francis, every day during the month of January, prays, “Dear Heavenly Father, during this month of January when we celebrate the week of Christian Unity, we pray that, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, and through fraternal charity and dialogue, all Christians may overcome divisions. We also ask, O Lord, that sincere dialogue among brothers and sisters of different faiths may produce the lasting fruit of peace and justice. Through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Head. Amen.
As I mentioned on Sunday in worship…unity is not sameness. Sometimes we live with a false notion of what creates for unity. Unity is, by God’s design, diversity with mutual respect and honor. For example, I am very proud to be a United Methodist Christian. More accurately, I am first and foremost a Christ follower who happens to be United Methodist. I can be fully United Methodist and embrace my tradition and still respect and honor a different Christian tradition.
Furthermore, it is good and healthy for people to have preferences. The problem is that sometimes people move from preference to prejudice. At that point, the denominational affiliation becomes more important than the mere fact that one is a follower of Jesus Christ.
So this week…please pray for Christian unity. When Gandhi experienced the lack of unity among Christian peoples and groups, he then commented, “I love Christ but I cannot stand Christians,” and therefore made the decision to not become one.