A couple of pastors were talking at a church convention one day. one of the pastors asked, “How many members do you have in your church?”
“Three hundred and fifth,” replied the other pastor.
The first pastor then asked, “Are all of them active?”
“Yes,” replied the second pastor. “One hundred and seventy-five are working for me, and the other one hundred seventy-five are working against me.”
Now, we may laugh at that story, and certainly we are all entitled to our opinions, but how is it that we have gotten to a place of such discord over personal preferences? Whether it is our opinion about leaders, the sports teams we cheer for, our choice of spiritual things, or whatever the topic, it seems we have lost the ability, and even the desire to practice the civility it takes to “agree to disagree.” In fact, it has become common place to hear people express their feelings proudly while blatantly disregarding the feelings of others. Have you noticed this trend? How could we not notice, right?
It should not surprise us that God, on the other hand, puts a high value on unity. On the night before Jesus went to the cross, He clearly prayed, “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in Me through their word, that they might be ONE; even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they may also be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” (John 17:20-21)
The fact is, not only does God value unity, but God also provides a way for us to have that unity. Where do we learn and find unity with others, whether they agree with us or not? It comes from having a relationship with God and letting what we learn from God flow into our relationships with others.
The Apostle Paul speaks about this very thing in Philippians 2:4-8, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not county equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.”
You and I do not need to literally die for on another, but if we practice the type of kindness and gentleness Jesus displayed, it will go a long way to creating a world we would be proud to hand down to our kids and grandkids!
— The Rev. Bill Kerr is pastor at United Methodist Church in Litchfield.