A Prayer for Christian Unity (Romans 15.5-6)


Listen to The Daily Word online.

How about a joke to start your day? 

Comedian Emo Philips tells this joke about Baptists: 

I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said “Stop! Don't do it!” 

“Why shouldn't I?” he said.  

“Well, there's so much to live for!” 

“Like what?” 

“Well…are you religious?” He said yes. I said, "Me too! Are you Christian or Buddhist?” 

“Christian.” 

“Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” 

“Protestant.”  “Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?” 

“Baptist.” 

“Wow! Me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?” 

“Baptist Church of God!” 

“Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of God, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” 

“Reformed Baptist Church of God!” 

“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915?” 

He said, "Reformed Baptist Church of God, reformation of 1915!” 

I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off. 

Church history is—from one perspective—the sad story of Christians pushing each other off the bridge. On July 16, 1054, representatives of the Pope excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, inaugurating the Great Schism between the western Roman Catholic Church and the eastern Greek Orthodox Church. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, inaugurating the Protestant Reformation and further dividing the western church. Today, according to the World Christian Database, there are over 9000 denominations at work in the world, at least 635 in the United States alone. 

Some of these divisions were necessary. When an essential doctrine or moral principle is on the line, Christians have to choose for orthodoxy over heresy. But most of the splits between Protestant denominations have nothing to do with essential doctrines or moral principles. They are, rather, splits over doctrines and practices that are nonessential. They are, in other words, divisions over personal preferences. And such divisions are unfortunate.  

In John 17.20-21, Jesus prayed: 

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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. 

Christian disunity—when caused by disputes over personal preferences—is tragic because it hinders our evangelistic witness to the world. 

In Romans 15.5-6, Paul prayed this prayer: 

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

This is a prayer we too ought to pray and put into practice. Following Jesus should unite all Christians—regardless of denominational stripe—and enable them to present a unified front to a world desperately in need of grace.

Let’s stop pushing each other off the bridge to heaven and instead work together to help others across.

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