“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.” (John 17:20–21)
If you have never walked across a frozen lake, you’re kind of missing out. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t sit out on the ice for hours fishing like some will do, but it is an amazing experience to walk out on a lake, especially one in which you swim and boat during the summer.
Often times, you’ll hear the creaking of the ice below you, and if you are a pessimist like me, you’ll be certain that the ice will crack and the cold black water will swallow you whole!
On a cold winter’s night in the mid-sixteenth century, a man was quickly crossing such a frozen lake in the Netherlands. The ice did creak below him, but it did not give way to his thin frame. Behind, however, was a larger man giving chase across the frozen ice, and the ice cracked, and the cold black water swallowed him.
The man in the front, Dirk Willems, was an Anabaptist imprisoned for his religious convictions. He had escaped from his captor, who had fallen through the ice. Dirk could have completed his escape, leaving his captor to perish in the cold icy water. But Dirk did not; Dirk rescued his pursuer only to be captured by him, tortured, and eventually killed for his religious convictions.
In this story, the Anabaptist played the hero, but in many other stories they have played the villain. The villain has been played by the Catholics, the Lutherans, the Presbyterians, the Baptists; none of us are innocent if we are honest. Within the Church, we fight, we torment, and we even kill with our words and our thoughts, if not our actions.
We allow the very waters of baptism that should identify us as brothers and sisters in Christ to divide us and to cast a shadow over us. We argue about baptism; we argue about communion; we argue about the nature of God’s knowing. Don’t get me wrong, these are not unimportant, but we do it in such a way that does not demonstrate the love of Christ, the unity of the Spirit, or the positive nature of the shadow of the cross in our lives. We demonstrate its curse and not its blessing.
We become more interested in being right than in being righteous, more interested in winning arguments than in winning souls, more interested in the best place at the table than our place on the cross.
Jesus prayed that we would be one with each other the way he and the Father were one so that the whole world would see that the Father sent the Son. With whom do you need to be reconciled within the Church? Within your own church? With someone in the church down the street? During this journey together under the shadow of the cross, how will you demonstrate your Christian unity so the rest of the world will see the love of God that sent the Son?
Heavenly Father, forgive me when I have been divisive within your Church. Help me to reconcile with my brothers and sisters in Christ – not ignoring our differences, but not allowing them to come in the way of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that needs to know you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to save the world. It is in his powerful name that I pray, amen.