Jesus, in one of his last recorded prayers before his arrest and crucifixion prays for his believers and asks,
that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me. (John 17:21-23)
One of the last things Jesus does is pray for unity. Unity does not mean that they will think exactly the same, or act exactly the same, or even be identical in anyway. But it does mean that they will be working toward the same goal. Like dancers who are in sync and dancing to the same music but may be performing different moves, Christians are to be working together, unified, striving together for the same goal even if they are following God in different ways.
In 2 Corinthians Paul talks about the ministry of reconciliation that is ours through our union with Christ. In chapter 5 he writes,
So if anyone is in Christ, there is new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:17-20)
For those of us who are in Christ we are new creations. Through the work that Christ did on the cross we have become the righteousness of God. No longer are we judged but what we once did. That is an old life, everything has been made new. But this new life comes with a role to fulfill, a ministry to perform. We are not just saved for ourselves, we are saved for the sake of the world. God is now using us to appeal to the rest of the world. We have become Christ’s ambassadors; taking the message of reconciliation to the rest of the world. Urging others into the life we enjoy. But that ministry of reconciliation is not just about getting our own lives right with God, or even helping others get their lives right with God (although that is an important ministry). It is also about healing relationships in the world. It’s working toward the unity Christ prays for. Not allowing disagreements to come between us but making reconciliation an important part of our lives.
If we are going to be God followers, living new creation lives, we must be about the task of reconciliation. We must be ambassadors for reconciliation. Reconciliation is our ministry. Why? It’s for the sake of the world. Somehow when Christians disagree it harms their witness to the rest of the world. Why would a non-follower of God want to be apart of a group that fights all the time? But, when Christians witness to a different type of community: a community in which differences do not divide but unite, a community in which all different types of people are welcome, a community in which the labels we often place on others are erased, then that will be an invitation to the rest of the world to join this community.
That means that as Christians we must learn to get along. That doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything or go to the same church or be best friends. But it does mean that it’s not alright to simply stop talking to certain Christians because you don’t like them or agree with their theology. You can’t decide you don’t like someone so you act like they don’t exist. And you can’t send letters to the editor of a paper or write blogs on the internet. or even gossip with your friends condemning or speaking poorly about another Christian. Instead, as far as it depends on you live at peace with all people. Work at learning to forgive. Let go of the anger and hurt. Recognize that no matter what one has done or their particular views of theology we are all new creations in Christ. That is our unifying mark. And one of the ways that we prove to the rest of the world that we are God’s followers is by embracing and living into the ministry of reconciliation.
I urge you because of Christ, be reconciled.