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Sunday Message for 29 May 2022: “Spiritual Unity”

Humanity experiences division and separation. This situation is not optimal and lack of unity makes life worse for many people. Thankfully God can help overcome this. Jesus prayed “that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us …” (John 17:21).

Jesus’ bold prayer highlights spiritual oneness and solidarity, which can strengthen believers in the common purpose of sharing God’s love. All this might sound philosophical and distant but unity is worth pursuing, especially for people of faith who represent God’s values on earth. Together, we can share a common spiritual core, a oneness that helps us do God’s work.

Jesus’ plea for spiritual oneness is appropriate given that the Lord would soon depart earth. Jesus’ absence might have meant the death of the barely-there church, along with the collapse of his small band of disciples. In both ancient and modern times, striving for spiritual unity is difficult but still worthwhile. Unity among and between God’s followers is something toward which persons of faith can still aspire.

What is the great power underlying spiritual connectedness? It is love, and Jesus pointed to the evidence of love as pervading all reality. Unity from God’s love is often overlooked because appreciating spiritual unity invites you to see yourself in the face of the stranger, the “other” who is not you. People dismissed as strangers or outsiders can arouse fear and suspicion due to variances in skin color and many cultural variables such as language, national origin, and religion. Fear of outsiders is known as xenophobia, and this manifests itself in racist, anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.

As people of faith we’re challenged to overcome negativity. It is bad to diminish someone’s value simply because they are a stranger. When you understand that you are profoundly connected with other humans then there’s a better chance that prejudice and discrimination can be managed. Labeling people as outsiders or even as threats magnifies the chances of hate and atrocities.

Often, a sense of spiritual solidarity is lacking within and between many Christian sects and denominations. This regrettable situation arises from varying interpretations of scripture and debate over theological doctrines. The sad truth is that Christians have done poorly at setting a unifying example. Often, church folks are guilty of perpetuating divisions that feed violations of peoples’ human, civil, and equal rights.

The Bible has many verses about love, but in today’s message the focus is on love’s unifying power. It’s not that everyone is supposed to think the same way or have identical opinions. Instead, love means that people are free and accepted to express their uniqueness, at least when doing so doesn’t violate other peoples’ right to do so.

Jesus prayed to God that love would be the force uniting all believers. The challenge is to continue Jesus’ emphasis by choosing to unite ourselves toward, for example, better social justice outcomes. Want to know who and where God is? God is in you! God is also in your neighbors near and far, in everyone who has been made in the loving image and spiritual likeness of God (and that includes all humans). This is why the greatest commandment to love God is inseparably paired with the second commandment to love your neighbor as yourself.

Considering ourselves as one body of believers doesn’t mean that we don’t have differences. People diverge in so many bewildering ways that forcing uniformity is both undesirable and impractical. God created humanity with all colors, shapes and sizes because that is the divine plan. Indeed, when managed properly diversity can strengthen humanity such as when a varied gene pool promotes our species’ survival when facing biological threats.

God’s spirit helps us achieve unity of purpose such that all of us can embrace our neighbors with one almighty, unifying love. Let Jesus’ words soak in, “so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

–Reverend Larry Hoxey

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