More than two hundred years ago, five Kentucky preachers penned a document (“The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery”) in which they opined that Christians should “pray more and dispute less.” Their words resonate with me when I read disciples of Jesus disparaging one another’s character and integrity while they question motives and liturgical practice. Jesus prayed that his disciples “may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” (John 18:23). Such unity will not result from calling each other names. If we differ, let us correspond about what Jesus wanted from his followers, and let the writings of his apostles shape how we interact. Choices that a congregation or church leader make may shock us. Some changes in practice may trigger traumatic shock as they bring to mind past controversies and divisions. We will not achieve greater unity by repeating either decisions or attitudes that fueled controversy in the past. Let us focus on the Christ who unites and forgives. Let us sing, pray, and share as his earliest disciples did. Let us show Christ to the world in our spirit, our relationships, and our disciplined obedience. Culture implodes around us as searchers hear bitter bickering rather than declarations of love for God and one another. Let us love God and one another the way that Jesus loved the sinners of his time – sacrificially. Pray hard, my friends.
God, you commissioned us to serve as your ambassadors. We have distorted your message; we garble your intent in our quest for acceptance and power. Help us to discern the cries for help embedded within hateful exchanges and arrogant pronouncements. Turn our hearts to you so that we may love one another and walk as Jesus walked. We may follow him in paths of rejection and suffering; help us to retain our focus so that we may remember that he who suffered so greatly in his obedience sits now in a place of honor by your side. Give us the words that will send your message to those who need it most. Give us the resolve to live, to serve, to worship in ways that please you rather than ourselves. You are our guide and our Shepherd. Bring us back when we stray from your purpose. Make us one in you as we pray more and dispute less. In Jesus’ name, Amen