Tonight my pastor decided to do something different. Wednesday nights we have corporate prayer and usually anyone who fells lead to pray can get up and well, pray. Tonight he laid out some scriptures, on three pieces of paper at the pulpit. He wanted to help focus the prayer and give us some direction from the Word.
Great idea, except for I am not a script person. He wasn’t asking for us to just pray the scripture and sit down, but to pray it out. I am a planner, God and I spend a lot of time talking before I will walk up in a corporate prayer meeting. I need to have an opening line at least, I bargain. What do I do when I feel prompted but I have no idea what I’m walking in to? I resist. A lot. And then I usually give in, especially if I know it is a “God thing.”
So I walked up to the pulpit and skimmed over the scriptures. We were praying on unity. Let me pause and just say, I have had a definite block on unity recently. I haven’t felt unity with anyone. I have been feeling isolated. I have been feeling left out. I have been feeling like I don’t belong. No one cares. No one really understands. Not just one place, but most every place. I know it is my own pride and insecurity wrapped up in a neat bow from the enemy to help steal my joy and peace. I have played right into it, and let it help me to continue isolating myself.
I thought I had gotten a handle on it. Notice I said “I got.” well this week I learned, “I ain’t got a handle on nothing.” The lack of unity I was feeling had me so frustrated that I was ready to quite my job. A job I love, am passionate about, getting to use my education to help others, in a Christian environment, ministering to people in need, helping connect them with the resources they need to move them to the next place in life. This is what insecurity does, it turns our focus on the wrong things instead of letting us look at the blessings all around us.
So that was my week, well probably month leading up to this prayer meeting. I had already sat in my chair with tears in my eyes telling God, “Yes, I know this was what I needed tonight. Yes, I repent, please forgive me. Yes, I see I am part of the problem.” This before the prompting to get up and pray. I squirmed and looked up something on unity in my phone. I realized I wanted to share this with my cohorts. Many although not all are also believers, and so we should have unity and be working together.
So I stood there microphone in my hand looking at the words on the page. I kept feeling led back to a particular scripture. I wanted to avoid it, and I certainly didn’t want to pray it. “Hello God, didn’t we just have this conversation. I am not the one that should pray about this one. I have struggled with it all week. Let’s just pray the next one on the page.” A simple “No. This one.”
Romans 12:16 (NIV) Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
I realized that if I am struggling with this, others probably feel it too. There is a reason that this is the scripture the Holy Spirit drew me to. So I let go of the block. I let go of the resistance. I was obedient, and prayed what was on my heart. Then my attention was drawn to another scripture passage on the page, and another. I felt free to read from the script and pray from the heart. As I sat down, I felt the desire to write.
God called His people to live in harmony with one another. There may not have been all the denominations that we have now, but there were different sects of believers. There were varying religious beliefs that were already in play and already caused heated debates and division. There were possibly as many cultures, but I think this was referring to the Jewish Christians getting along with the Gentile Christians. It was the clean versus the unclean. The circumcised versus the uncircumcised. The chosen people versus the unchosen.
God said “live in harmony with one another.” So, how do we do it? I am so thankful that as Christian’s we have the Holy Spirit to teach us, guide us and direct us.
The scripture says “Don’t be proud.” Pride is focused on me and what I can do. It looks at “my” accomplishments. It compares what I am doing to what others are or are not doing. In the middle of pride, is “I.” The problem with being “I-focused.” is that there is no one to be unified with. You can’t be “I-focused” and “God-focused” at the same time. You can’t be “I-focused”, and focus on others at the same time.
God called us to be in unity with one another. Others should encourage you in your accomplishments and a job well done, but if you have already patted yourself on the back there is no need for anyone else too. If we are seeking glory, we are not giving glory to God. He tells us to humble ourselves, and He will lift us up in due season. Unity with others begins with unity with God and humbling our self.
God’s next direction was to be willing to associate with people of low positons. Consider the lowly position of those who pick up community trash. You might not notice if your trash didn’t get picked up for a week or two, but imagine going four months without your trash being pick up as several communities did during the strikes of 1968. Then add everyone in your community’s trash. Then add the summer heat to that trash. It quickly makes you appreciate that job your thankful you don’t have to do every time your get behind the dump truck.
I have had the opportunity to work with the wealthiest people and the poorest people in our community. I have sat under some of the most anointed people, and I have sat with some of the ungodliness people. I have been with some of the most educated and some of the least educated. I know that I have learned something from them all. Each person on a team, in a church, in a community has something to offer. When we live in unity with each other, we value what each person contributes – great or small.
His next instruction was, “Do not be conceited”. When I was younger I had a favorite saying “I’m not conceited. Just convinced.” I was very vain and egotistical. We all like to think that our way is the right way. We like to think others should do things like we do them and should have the same goals and results as we do. The problem is that most of us think like that and the only way that thinking can happen – is if we are in unity with one another.
God gave each of us different talents and abilities. He gave us different personalities and different thought processes. He gave us strengths. However, we also all have weaknesses. All of these things work together when we are in unity. We can bounce ideas off others and come up with the perfect plan. We can turn an assignment that drains us over to someone who will find energy in it. We can draw from other’s strengths and they can help cover each other’s weaknesses. That is what working in unity looks like.
Colossians 3:14 gives us one other direction. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Put on love. Love is what keeps us in unity. Not the love of the world (although we need to have love for the people in the world), but the love of God. God says “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
If we have to put on love, that means it is a choice. There was a morning devotion not to long ago where we were encouraged to do just this, to put on love. To ask ourselves, am I being patient with my coworker? Am I being kind? Am I envious of another? Am I boasting to others? Am I being proud? Am I dishonoring others? Am I self-seeking? Am I being easily angered? Am I keeping score of wrongs? Am I happy when someone else gets in trouble? Am I happy when the truth is brought forth? Am I protective of all my coworkers? Am I trusting of my coworkers? Do I pour hope into my coworkers? Do I work beside them in the tough times until the job is done? That is what unity does, it puts on God’s love. When we put on this mindset, we thrive. If we remain divided, we ultimately fail.
Walking in unity with others is not easy, but it is possible. It is also a choice, but a choice that benefits us and those around us with good and pleasant things. I leave you with a thought from Sister Katherine McAuley
The blessing of unity still dwells amongst us and oh what a blessing, it should make all else pass into nothing….This is indeed the true spirit of Mercy flowing on us…Katherine McAuley.