the incarnation means unity

In seventh grade I was given an incredible opportunity to share my faith with almost everyone I knew.  The school newspaper interviewed me.  The one question I was asked: “What does Christmas mean to you?”  I explained that Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birth, and that he had changed my life, and that he is the answer to all the world’s problems — and I mentioned what a great opportunity Christmas is for Christians to both celebrate and witness to others about our Lord and savior. 

I was quite proud of what a great job I’d done, and how I’d not been afraid to share my faith in front of everyone at school.

At home, though, I received a 15-minute lecture on why our church doesn’t celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas.  Many an argument has been had in our congregations, between our congregations, and toward other congregations, concerning Christ’s birth and the celebration of Christmas.

That’s sad, considering Jesus’ birth should be the single most unifying event of all time, for all people.

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.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.  For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy, as it is written:

“Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles;
I will sing hymns to your name.”

Again, it says, 

“Rejoice, O Gentiles, with his people.”

And again,

“Praise the Lord, all you Gentiles,
and sing praises to him, all you peoples.”

And again, Isaiah says, 

“The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations;
the Gentiles will hope in him.”

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

–Romans 15:5-12

What I’ve learned:

  • Paul desires followers of Christ to have unity.
  • God is able to give his followers a spirit of unity.
  • We can together glorify God with one heart and one mouth.
  • When we have one heart and one mouth, it glorifies God.
  • I should accept other Christians in the same way Christ accepted me.
  • When Christians accept one another as Christ accepted us, it brings praise to God.
  • God is merciful to all peoples through Christ.
  • As a result of Christ, Israel will praise God among the Gentiles.
  • As a result of Christ, Gentiles will praise God with Israel.
  • As a result of Christ, all the peoples of the earth will praise God.  There will no longer be a need even to differentiate between Jew and Gentile.  We will be united as “people” in our praise.
  • From the long dormant line of King David will be born a ruler for all nations — Jesus.
  • The Gentiles will put their hope in Jesus.
  • The same God in which the Gentiles hope will fill them with joy and peace, as they give their lives to him.
  • The end result will be abundant hope for the Gentiles, as they join the Jews in praising God with one heart and one mouth, united in Christ.
  • It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that this will come to be.

What I’m thinking about:

  • I’m expected to accept others as Christ accepted me.  I was a hopeless sinner when Christ accepted me — and he not only accepted me, but gave me life and hope.  What requirements are we putting on other Christians, in order to gain our acceptance?  Do we offer life and hope — or debate and judgment?
  • Christians bring praise to God when we accept one another as Christ accepted us. What do we bring him when we fail to do so?  What about when we do the very opposite?
  • Christmas is thought of as a time of peace and joy.  In this text, peace and joy are related to trusting God with our lives as we practice unity with other believers.  What might we do to bring greater peace and joy in this season?  What might I myself do?
  • If the Holy Spirit desires to bring unity and hope to all people, what can I do to be in step with him?
  • Christ’s birth is mercy for all people.
  • Christ’s birth means hope for all people.
  • Christ’s birth makes unity possible for all people.

My Prayer:

Almighty God in whom I hope, I pray that you will bring unity in your believers on earth, so that we may praise you with one heart and one mouth.  May you be glorified in our love for one another.  Forgive us, Father, for all the times we’ve been argumentative, judgmental, and bitter with our brothers and sisters.  Help us, as individuals, to accept one another as Christ has accepted us.  Help us, as churches, to embrace one another as Christ has embraced us.  Empower us through your Spirit to put all of our trust in Christ Jesus, and not in our own doctrines and divisions.  God, give us joy and peace… in this season, and in all seasons.  Amen.

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6 Comments

Filed under incarnation

6 responses to “the incarnation means unity

  1. Daniel

    Why can’t we just all get along?!?!

  2. It’s characteristic of man to draw lines and build fences.

    Well, that’s one reason… but also you’ve got politics and college football.

  3. Why can’t we get along?

    Jesus, just 2 short verses after John 3:16 says…

    “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

    And James 4:1-3:
    “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

    And James gives a solution.
    “But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

  4. Ike

    Intensely felt, openly demonstrated love between manly men of God – who wouldn’t want to be a part of that? Three ways to create that culture in our churches:

    One, “Outdo one another in showing honor” (Romans 12:10). No flippant put-downs. No undercutting. Not even waiting for the next guy to make the first move. But me getting out of my self-concern to lift the next man up with high honor. Doing this verbally, unashamedly.

    Two, “Bear with one another” (Colossians 3:13). Not trying to change one another. Who appointed us to that role? Our privilege is to bear with one another’s “weaknesses and oddities, which are such a trial to our patience, . . . to break through to the point where we take joy in [the other man’s quirkiness]” (Bonhoeffer, Life Together, page 101).

    Three, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths but only such as is good for building up” (Ephesians 4:29). Nothing could be more unAmerican than denying ourselves our right of free speech. Men of God filter every word by a higher standard. Even if the words wanting to come out of my mouth are factually true, the real question is, Are my words positively helping the man listening?

    Manly men of God loving one another intensely and openly are a life-enriching social environment.

    “Ray Ortlund”

  5. Ray, as to number 2, I will not try to make my brother become like me in personality or preferences and I will not squash his peculiarities and quirkiness to suit my comfort. BUT, it is my job, to love him towards becoming more like Jesus. If there is sin, it is my job to bring it to his attention, maybe not the first time, but I’ll watch and pray and consider. And if it seems like he could use some help, I will help, not as judge but as fellow soldier, to get the log out of my own I first, SO THAT I can help get the speck out of His eye. If we won’t do that, then I don’t really love him and we’ll all end up blind.

  6. A hearty amen to one and three for sure. More of that.

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