Unity Through Grace

“Not for these only do I pray, but for those also who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us; that the world may believe that you sent me. The glory which 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 be perfected into one; that the world may know that you sent me, and loved them, even as you loved me. Father, I desire that they also whom you have given me be with me where I am, that they may see my glory, which you have given me, for you loved me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world hasn’t known you, but I knew you; and these knew that you sent me. I made known to them your name, and will make it known; that the love with which you loved me may be in them, and I in them.” -John 17:20-26 (WEB)

But by the grace of God I am what I am. His grace which was bestowed on me was not futile, but I worked more than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. -1 Corinthians 15:10 (WEB)

It was with great anticipation that I watched the recordings of the main sessions of the 2006 North American Christian Convention. I had read several accounts of that historic moment on Thursday night, June 29th, as Jeff Walling and Dave Stone exchanged Bibles on stage, but I wanted to see the event and hear the words myself. Why was this event so historic? For the past 100 years, the groups of Christians these two men were affiliated with had fought with each other, sometimes quite bitterly. It was in 1906 that the U.S. Census Bureau first recognized the a cappella Churches of Christ and the instrumental Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ as separate denominations. Three years ago, Rick Atchley, from the Richland Hills Church of Christ in North Richland Hills, TX, called for a setting aside of petty differences and a reunion of the two groups. I was present in a group of about 3000 as Rick repeated the call for unity he had first uttered a few months earlier. It was an electrifying moment as those 3000 people showed their approval with a standing ovation.

After much prayer and hard work on the part of many, about 6000 people filled the convention center in Louisville, KY at the end of June to study, to learn, to be challenged and exhorted, to forgive, and to be forgiven. As I watched the recording of the Bible exchange, my thoughts naturally went to John 17 and Jesus’ prayer for the unity of His disciples. For that is what this was all about. But, it was more than that. It was also a visible demonstration of what God’s grace compels us to do when we truly grasp how unworthy we are to receive that grace. Of course, that’s what grace is—the unmerited favor of God, His undeserved mercy, rather than the justice we do deserve.

O God, may your grace drive us all to our knees in repentance before you for the self-righteous, argumentative, and selfish attitudes we have allowed to overflow from within us and create divisions within the body of Christ. May your grace also compel us to reach out to our brothers and sisters in Christ and find ways to work together to turn our world upside down for Christ. Help us, Father, to be the one body Jesus died to save. In his name we pray. Amen.

Closing Thought
Jesus would not have prayed for unity among his disciples if unity is not possible. We call him Lord. Will we do what he tells us to do? Will we love one another and serve Jesus together?

Copyright © 2006, Star M. Ferdinand. All Rights Reserved.

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