My dearest friends, the scandal of our Christian disunity is heartbreaking.
So, now more than ever, I am clinging to the words we pray during Holy Communion: "By your Spirit, make us one with Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry to all the world."
I have also been reminded of some exegetical work I did in seminary on Romans 12, verses 14 through 21. This is my own paraphrase of the passage, which I've shared on this blog before, but I feel compelled to offer these words once again for our prayerful reflection:
14 When persecution comes, be a blessing people. Pray for your persecutors, rather than curse them. 15 Do not be emotionally detached from your neighbors, especially those who do not yet know the righteousness of God. Celebrate with them when they are celebrating, mourn with them when they are mourning. 16 Your life together should be permeated with oneness. Stand in solidarity with the lowly and disadvantaged in your midst; once again, (I cannot stress this enough!) do not think yourselves more superior to others. 17 Do not answer evil with evil. Instead, whenever possible, be proactive and consider a response righteous before God and a watching world. 18 I know that there will be times when it seems impossible, but you should make every effort to live in peace with all of your neighbors, regardless of their race or creed. 19 My dear friends, never play vigilante and take matters into your own hands. Leave it to God to be the righteous judge; for it has been revealed to us in the Scriptures, ‘Vengeance belongs to me and is mine to dish out, says the Lord.’ 20 No, if you’re going to play any part at all, you should ‘feed your foes when they are hungry and give them drink when they are thirsty; this lovingkindness may change their hearts and lead them to turn away from their offensive behavior toward you.’ 21 The only way to avoid being overcome by all the evil in the world is to always respond to it the same way God has...with love and generous goodness.If our witness, our Christ-like examples of everyday living, is the primary means through which people come to know the love of God through Jesus Christ, then our thoughts, words, and deeds must reflect what the apostle Paul exhorted us in these verses.
Anything less requires our confession, which we also pray during Holy Communion: "Merciful God, we confess that we have not loved you with our whole heart. We have failed to be an obedient church. We have not done your will, we have broken your law, we have rebelled against your love, we have not loved our neighbors, and we have not heard the cry of the needy. Forgive us, we pray. Free us for joyful obedience, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
There are no easy solutions to the problems we are facing in the world today. Regardless, we Christians can and must do better with the way we witness to the love of God through Jesus Christ. The world is watching.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in your thoughts, words, and deeds for these days, take these words to heart: "The only way to avoid being overcome by all the evil in the world is to always respond to it the same way God has...with love and generous goodness."