Jesus warned that the final days would be terrible times where people would be pitted against each other who might otherwise to be respectful and supporting. It is alarming, but perhaps not so surprising to see it in national factions, but when it appears in the church, it is especially disturbing. The church is supposed to be built on the single foundation of Jesus Christ.
The night before his death, Jesus prayed for His followers, “that 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. 22 I have given them the glory that You gave Me, that they may be one as We are One— 23 I in them and You in Me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that You sent Me and have loved them even as You have loved Me.” (John 17:21-23) This prayer so beautifully describes the heart of Jesus for unity among His followers, and it also exposes what has gone wrong.
The key to unity is Jesus in us. When He left Earth to return to His Father, He sent the Holy Spirit Who has the unique capability of taking up residence in the heart of every believer. “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on His own; He will speak only what He hears, and He will tell you what is yet to come.” (John 16:13) Relying on the Holy Spirit’s wisdom and counsel is the key to us staying connected to Jesus. He in us and us in Him is again the formula.
Our big challenge is relying on Someone we can’t see, rather than using our minds and senses to navigate life ourselves. We actually take great satisfaction in being independent and self-sufficient, and the successes we enjoy reinforce our wisdom and intelligence. Meanwhile, the Holy Spirit watches and observes, waiting to be asked to participate.
In this way, the pride of man replaces the loving guidance that we actually need and the Lord desires to give. Man’s intelligence arrives at a truth suitable for his circumstances that can be adjusted when the circumstances change. He glories in his wisdom and reasoning, convinced that everyone should adopt the rightness of his truth; that is, until he collides with another individual practicing the same approach. Then, the opposing truths create a stand-off. Non-believers can do no better, but as believers, we still have the Holy Spirit Who still wants to impart absolute truth. Obviously, our minds are selfish and fickle – not to be trusted unless aligned with the mind of Christ. We desperately need Jesus as our unshakable “true north.” God instructed Moses that each Israelite had to pay a ransom for his life so that no plague would come upon them (Exodus 30:12).
God’s amazing grace over us is that Jesus paid our ransom, therefore Paul says, “You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20) If unity in the church is built on the foundation of Jesus, could it be that practicing our righteousness and defending our “good” ideas and our personal truths is a level of pride that refuses Jesus as our ransom, ushering in a plague of division? Only the humility to acknowledge our abject need of Jesus, permits Him the Lordship to unite His body of believers. So we have a role to play… what will it be? My way or surrender to HIS?