20”I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, 21that 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. 22The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,23I 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. 24Father, 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. 25“Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
We just celebrated World Communion Sunday on the first Sunday of October. On that day, we lifted up our unity as Christians in the church universal by sharing the sacrament of Holy Communion along with thousands of other Christians worldwide. There is an urgent need right now for Christians to be a witness through unity, especially in our American political climate. First and foremost, Christians are fundamentally called to demonstrate our faith guided by Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, during this season of presidential politics many of us seem to guided more by our commitment to political ideologies than the teachings of Christ.
Let me give you two examples.
I have a good friend who is a Christian and a Democrat. She started visiting a new church in the community where she lived. While she thought her faith and politics lined up, she learned very quickly that the people in her new church did not agree. In a Sunday school class conversation, several seemed to imply (and one person directly stated), that one cannot be both a Christian and a Democrat. She liked her church and knew everyone did not feel this way, but here she was in a congregation where leaders of her class were telling her that her political views were not Christian. What kind of church would say such things?
I know another man who shared with me his pain around faith and politics. He is a Christian as well and a faithful member of his church. He never told me his political affiliation, but he expressed some deep pain from friends and congregation members who sent out partisan emails. He is the kind of guy who studies the facts and whenever he would try to point out the errors of certain emails (of which most were partisan lies), the response back to him was not exactly in keeping with the kind of love Jesus modeled. They responded to him harshly and he had not even asked to be sent those emails! Someone just included him in all the FWDs. One man said to him, “Don’t talk to me anymore!” What kind of church would say such things?
Actually, both of these people attend the same church. And the church these two people attend is the church I pastor.
I appreciate some aspects of both parties and disagree with others. I have voted for persons in both parties. Jesus would not perfectly fit either political party. The truth is we Christians have damaged our witness when it comes to how we participate in partisan politics. I know many people of strong faith who become very un-Christian in their behavior when they begin to talk about politics.
In John’s gospel today, Jesus is talking about unity. As we gather around the table to celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion, we celebrate unity in the Body of Christ. Our faith teaches that we are one body and Christ is the head. This does not mean we are all the same or that we all see the world the same way. We struggle in our differences; I get that – I struggle as well. But we must remember that just because we are commanded to be ONE doesn’t mean we have to all be the SAME. Unity is not the same as uniformity. In this section of the gospel of John, Jesus teaches us that our unity is rooted in our faith and that our witness to the world will not be about “right belief” but rather about “right living” – Jesus models the Father, and he calls us to model him. Our love of God and one another, if it is true and authentic, should rise above any difference in our political ideology.
Let me encourage you to be a faithful witness to the love of God in these coming days and weeks. Remember the teachings of Paul from Ephesians 4, “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God…. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another.”
I want you to be involved and engaged in the political arena, but I want you to remember that you are an ambassador of Christ first and foremost. Our faith should not be trumped by our loyalty to a political party. If it is, we compromise our witness to the world.
Are you a witness to the cosmic power of Christ in our unity? Or is your witness of Christ compromised by our lack of love and unity?
What you describe with the two church members is political views driving Christian beliefs. It should be the opposite, Chrisitan views should drive political beliefs. And there can be different political beliefs under the umbrella of Chrisitianity. It all boils down to what John Wesley talked about in his sermon on The Catholic Spirit: as long as your heart is right with my heart then leave me to my beliefs and I will leave you to yours. You may share your beliefs with me and I will take them under consideration. (or something along those lines)
Thank you for distinguishing between unity and uniformity.