Christian Unity

“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 17:23 NIV

“Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?” ~John Wesley in “Catholic Spirit” sermon

 It is easy to talk about “unity.” But are we talking about the same thing?

In his final prayer, Jesus prayed for his disciples to be “one.” He prayed for them to be in “unity.” In his sermon, “Catholic Spirit,” John Wesley wrote the words, “Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike?”

What’s interesting is the diversity among Jesus’ disciples. Each one of the had their own unique gifting and unique personality. But Jesus called, and prayed for, them to be “united.” I would challenge each one of us what we think about the word “united.”

Oftentimes, I hear people talked about being united as the same thing as being uniform. This can cause a lot of confusion, and a lot of anger as well. How? Because these words mean different things.

“Uniform” means doing everything the same way. “United” means to be focused, together, on the same goal. Uniformity implies a “cookie-cutter” approach by making sure everyone is doing everything the same way, same amount of time, wherever they are. 

On the other hand, if people are “united” in their cause, they will be focused on the same end goal, yet approach it from different angles. This is key. No one approach will be able to reach everyone. Think about that. Jesus used a tax collector, a big mouth, a doubter, and more to have his message spread throughout the world. It takes all kinds of people, gifts and talents, and methods to reach people.

As Christians, we can easily fall into the trap of making sure everyone follows and does things the exact same way we do because—our way is the right way, right? But how many people do we turn away when we don’t find ways to contextualize the message so they are able to hear it and be transformed by the message.

It is also easy to critique others for not doing things the way we know how. But remember, being united means we are all moving toward a goal. Being united means we live with a diverse group of gifts and methods and trust that God si working to complete his goal.

Because the “Catholic Spirit” sermon is quoted a lot, in the crowds I am part of, I would encourage you to read the full sermon. You can read it here:

What else would you add to these thoughts?

I pray Christ’s followers are all united in his message, yet live in diversity to reach all kinds of people in various cultures, circumstances, etc.

Published by Ryan Stratton

Ryan Stratton is a pastor in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. He serves with his wife, Amanda, along with their children. He writes about life, faith, and leadership through his blog.

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