General

A Lament for the Unity of the Church

Lord, my heart feels heavy. 

I’m reminded of that summer a few years back—I was cliff-jumping at Lake Superior with my family. It was July, but it had been only a few months since this beautiful mass of water was covered in patches of ice. As I jumped from my perch on the side of that cliff, I wasn’t ready for the moment the icy water engulfed my body. My chest constricted as all air escaped my lungs. 

It’s now a Saturday night in Denver, Colorado, and I’m sitting alone in my living room, considering the state of Your Church. Why do I feel my chest tightening in the same way? 

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We—Your Church—are called to be one, Lord. But where is our unity? Why is it easier to highlight that which divides us rather than delight over that which makes us one?

Each of us are incapable of grasping all of who You are, so we select a piece of Your character to uphold. Some lean on Your love. Some champion Your truth. Some find rest in Your grace. But You are not You with love and no truth, with truth and no grace. 

Is it because of our piecemealed understanding of You that we fail to remember the mission which brings us together? Is this why we demonize the brothers and sisters with whom we are meant to unite? 

God, can you help us to know You more? 

Reveal Yourself clearly through your Word. 

Raise up teachers and preachers with the ability to speak of You in a way that draws people to love You, to want to know You more. We do not need to soften Your message to do this well, but we do need to preach Your message and not our own. For those of us who are those teachers and preachers, give us the discipline to spend time with You, listening for Your voice and studying Your Word. 

There is a time to divide for the sake of keeping Your gospel unscathed. But would You help us to see when we have taken our preferences and called them gospel? 

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” ~ Proverbs 16:18 

Grow our humility, Lord. Help us to learn from those with whom we disagree. When our brothers and sisters with a different political stance have something to teach us about how to love and obey You more fully, give us the humility to learn from them. When the church across the street has a different stance on baptism or the gifts of the Spirit or women in church leadership, help us to celebrate their ministry and partner with them when we can. 

I pray that we would love one another deeply—not just when it’s convenient. Help us to be so extravagant in our love that the world can’t help but wonder how we do it. (And we will only do this well if we recognize that it won’t happen by our own power—may we walk by the power of Your Spirit.) Lord, You say that the world will know You by our unity. Make us one, God, for Your sake—for theirs. We have been failing in this; may that no longer be the case. 

We pray for discernment. For humility. For love. For grace. For unity. 

We ask for Your forgiveness for all the times that we have promoted unnecessary division among Your people because of our pride and for the sake of our convenience. Sanctify us as Your body. Shape us into Your image. Despite our failures, we pray for the advancement of Your kingdom. 

In Your name, 

Amen 

*****

Jesus prayed the following prayer not long before his death on the cross. May the words of Christ be made true in us: 

“But now I am coming to you [Father], and these things I speak in the world, that they [my followers] may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

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. Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

~ John 17:13-26, emphasis added

Samantha fell in love with the Bible's storyline of redemption as a 19-year-old college freshman. Now, she writes to help women deepen their faith and find hope through this story, and see how their own stories overlap. She loves following winding mountain trails, curling up with a good book, and laughing so hard her face hurts. :)

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Comments (2)

  1. Wow, Sam! I fully agree. It seems so clear it’s what we’re to do and yet we are failing hard, with tremendous consequences. Thanks for thinking through this and laying it out so clearly. I’ll be thinking about this for a while.

    1. Emily, you’re so right – the consequences of disunity are real. Makes me want to keep on praying this prayer AND do what I can to work toward unity, even in the seemingly small ways. Thanks for reading 💛