This week, most Christians commemorate – or are at least mindful of – Holy Week, the seven days between Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations and His resurrection.
Being on staff at a church, I’ve spent so much of the past few days preparing for our biggest Sunday of the year and not enough time reflecting on the enormity of the week, but my hometown has held community Holy Week services at lunchtime every day this week at one of the churches in the center of town.
The focus of most of the speakers has been unity in the church. We’ve worshiped and eaten lunch together as a diverse group of believers: Episcopalians, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, non-denominational Christians. We’ve gotten together as black and white, rich and poor, liberal and conservative, and the one thing that unites us other than living in the same town in our faith in Jesus Christ.
It’s been refreshing and encouraging to worship in a little bit different way – fairly “old church” – for a contemporary-church guy like me. And for me and my fellow staff members, it’s been a rare opportunity to worship without having responsibilities for the service as well.
Today is Maundy Thursday, the day that led up to Jesus’ arrest and trial. One of the commands (we get the word maundy from the same Latin root as command) that Jesus gave His disciples during the Last Supper was:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 after the Last Supper has been on my mind a lot lately. My small group just finished studying the book of John, so we went over this chapter not too long ago, and one of my fellow worship leaders referenced it in a Communion thought just a couple of weeks ago. Jesus prayed for His disciples and for all future believers to be one:
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me (John 17:20-23).
Fellow Christian, Jesus prayed for you and me 2,000 years ago! And He prayed for us to be unified in our love for each other and for the world that we’re trying to reach.
We live in a world of increasing polarization, and these past few days in particular strain at our unity. The Mueller Report and other politically fractious issues dominate the news, and we even have a Democratic presidential candidate attacking his fellow brother in Christ over a difference in beliefs. Someone is burning churches in Louisiana. The media and pop culture seek to divide us in many different ways.
The bottom line for my fellow believers in Jesus is that we need Jesus’ prayer for unity now more than ever. Our doctrinal differences are important, but the fundamentals of the faith we hold dear are more crucial. We who believe in Jesus need to put our differences aside and show the world His love.