Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2016: Day Three, “The Witness of Fellowship”Jan 20th, 2016 | By Beth Turner | Category: Blog Posts
When I first confessed Jesus Christ as Lord and God, my unbelieving sister’s strongest argument against the Christian faith was: how do you know what to believe about Jesus when so many Christians claim Jesus as God and yet believe such different things? This is a serious problem for evangelization. It was an argument which essentially halted my personal efforts at evangelization for many years. It was an argument that made me wonder whether I could really know where the truth was found. It was an argument that tore at my Christian friendships as I wondered which ones of my friends were “true” Christians and which were not. It was an argument that made reading the Bible extremely painful, since I never knew whether the meaning I saw in the Scriptures was the right one. For all those who want the world to hear of the good news of Christ and receive the Gospel, Christian unity should be of utmost concern.
A significant obstacle to fellowship between Christians of different communities is scorn. How can one hold doctrines up to careful scrutiny and yet maintain fellowship with the believer of such doctrines? It is not an easy task, requires much practice and patience, and those who attempt it should be prepared to fail on occasion. But we cannot have fellowship with one another when we treat each other with scorn. We mock one another’s worship, as when we snicker about hand-clapping or “smells and bells.” We make jokes about one another that may relieve tension, but often has the effect of deliberately misunderstanding another’s position so as to get a cheap laugh. We exaggerate the problems in other traditions by overlooking important nuances, and we dismiss problems among our own ranks so as to paint a picture rosier than it really is. These habits are among those that destroy the possibility of fellowship between Christians.
It may be the case that such scorn is the product of ignorance of another tradition, but biting humor can also be a response to pain. One pain that many Protestants have suffered is the Catholic Church’s insistence upon the purity of her communion, which refuses to allow those who do not profess her authority to partake. I suffered this pain as a Protestant Christian attending Mass, and I know dozens of other Protestants and Catholics who wish that it were not so. When we notice our lack of communion in this way, we ought not pretend we are better than other Christians because we can commune here or there, nor pretend we are superior to other Christians because our table is open to a greater number and variety of people, nor call ourselves something we are not. Instead, may the pain of our lack of communion propel us to a prayer for Christian unity. When we become the subject of scornful jokes on the lips of other Christians, may our pain propel us likewise to a prayer for Christian unity. When we find ourselves prepared to give up hope that we may ever share deeper fellowship with those who call upon the name of Jesus, may our despair propel us, again, to a prayer for Christian unity. When other Christians, trying to understand our religion but occasionally failing, speak words that wound, may our sorrow drive us to the solace of prayer for Christian unity. May we always seek ways to do one another good in this prayer for Christian unity.
Lord Jesus, you’ve shown us mercy, and you promise that the merciful will be blessed. May we never harden our hearts and spew scorn from our lips towards other Christians. Allow our hearts to be softened by the cup of sorrow you give us to drink and increase our love for those who hate us, that we all may be one.