Unity, Public Discourse, Hostile Letters, and Being One in Christ

In our local paper, the West Bend News, people have been getting pretty vocal and hostile toward one another over religious issues.  The local ministerial association decided to write a letter on unity to publish, and they nominated me to write the draft.  Unfortunately, the process never made it past that process.  We have been busy getting a youth center up and going, so it is understandable.  This letter only expresses my views and was not approved by the ministerial association.


We are saddened by the recent, well-intentioned “religious” letter wars that we see unraveling every week in this paper.  It is unfortunate that followers of Jesus portray our friend and savior in such a bickering and condescending light.  If you are a seeker, looking for God in the midst of this wonderful and heartrending journey of life, we hope that you do not give up on Jesus because of the argumentative behavior of those who, like ourselves, try to follow Jesus to the best of our fallen ability.  Despite our faults, each one of us can tell you how Jesus has changed our lives for the better, how he has used us to bring hope to others, and how he can do the same for you.

Jesus prayed that those who believe in him might be one (John 17).  The churches of Antwerp are on the verge of something special as we strive to do God’s will.  Through His grace we are learning to worship, serve, and love together.  We are excited to be working side by side, and we hope that this spirit of unity will continue during the years ahead.  We understand that we aren’t going to agree on everything, but we can agree on Jesus and his call to love our neighbor.  It is our hope to work together where we share common ground while understanding there are reasons that we are different.  Those areas of differences are best discussed in the context of a friendship over shared meals where we can learn from one another rather than the stark letters of black on white in the newspaper.

Jesus taught, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35 (ESV).  “Love for one another” is what Jesus taught would let people know we are his disciples.  Notice that he did not say that it would be our words or our intellectual propositions.  Too often, those divide, but love draws us together.  Jesus wants us to love our neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends.  Our community can be a much better place than it is today if we all take seriously Jesus’ teachings to love one another even when it is difficult.  And that is something we can get excited about doing together.

As we learn to love together, we will face hiccups and struggles, but we need to be careful to not divide over issues that are not clearly taught in Scripture.  Many traditions teach, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”  It is our hope that in Jesus and his teachings to love, we can find common ground to serve while understanding and accepting that we are different in other areas.  Let us not fail our special calling by surrendering to our natural tendency to divide and demonize one another.  Rather, let us learn to love and live in unity with one another, drawn together by the grace, love, and guidance of our Lord Jesus.