Please note: I offered these thoughts at Custer Road's Youth Week this past Monday.
The other day I was rolling through Facebook and a friend posted said this about Secretary Clinton: "She is not a UNIFIER!" Then someone else noted that Donald Trump, whose convention speech over and over said, "I alone can fix this," is hardly inviting unity either. And then I had this thought: it is probably unrealistic for us to place the burden of unifying a divided country in the hands of one person. It's hard work, and it takes all us, not any individual, to achieve it.
Evidently unity was a major concern of the early Christians. Throughout his letters the apostle Paul encouraged the different churches to be unified under the Lordship of Christ: "Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it" (1 Corinthians 12:27). Jesus himself prayed that his followers would be one, as he and the Father are one (John 17).
As I thought more and more on the theme of Christian unity, I kept hearing the words of John Wesley, who founded the Methodist movement 300 years ago: "Give me thine hand." It's from one of his sermons, probably his most well known, called "Catholic Spirit." He is using the word catholic in the universal sense, not as a reference to the Roman Catholic Church. You can read the entire sermon online. He draws on an obscure reference, 2 Kings 10:15, the story of two men fighting to cleanse Israel from the worship of the false god Baal. They meet on the road, and one says to another: "Is your heart as mine?" "It is," says the other. "Then give me thine hand," says the first. They have different histories and stories, come from different places, but they have a common vision and work together to achieve it.
Here are some selected thoughts from Wesley's sermon to consider:
1. Unity does not mean we cease to have our own opinions about issues. Think about it: how boring, and potentially dangerous, is it for everyone to think and believe the same way?
2. Unity is based on mutual love. If we love one another as brothers and sisters, regardless of who we vote for or why, unity is possible. We must love one another.
3. We have to entrust our entire lives to each other in community. Wesley urges the faithful friend to lift up any brokenness to God in prayer, asking God to heal it.
4. Inspire each other to change-- not our opinions, but our lives. We call this accountability in the church. Love me enough to challenge whatever is broken in me.
5. And I make these same commitments on your behalf.
This is where unity becomes possible, even in a broken world. It begins with love. And it is not the job of any particular person, Democrat or Republican. It is our work. It is the work of each person. So: Is your heart as mine? Then give me your hand.