#Advent16 — We believe

A reading from the Epistle to the Romans.

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice 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, so that the promises made to the patriarchs might be confirmed and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.

Romans 15:5-9a (NIV)

This is the Word of the Lord.

These words from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans are among my favorites in the Canon of Scripture. Paul is writing to a church that is struggling. They are experiencing persecution at every turn. They need encouragement. They need to endure. They need to unify.

But, Paul isn’t admonishing them to unify against the Romans. He’s not rallying them to march in the streets and protest against the authorities. While there is a time and place for that, this isn’t it.

Paul’s message is to operate with one voice and one mind. He understands that in order for people to be attracted to the Christian faith, they need to see something different from the people who call themselves Christian. They need to see a group of people who can come together in one place and in one accord.

Unity brings glory to God.

Disunity does not.

When we operate as individual silos of believers—my church, your church, that denomination, those people—we don’t bring glory to God. That doesn’t build the Kingdom of Heaven. When we build walls between other groups of believers, we build our own little kingdoms. When we can’t operate with other believers, we build barriers that block people from coming to know Jesus.

Unity requires that we accept one another. It requires us to welcome those who are not like us. It requires us to hear voices that don’t sound like ours. It requires us to cast aside our nationalistic ideals, and hold firm to Kingdom ideals. Unity is hard work.

Unity changes the world. People are attracted to unity. When the Body of Christ can stand up and operate together, the world will see that we are His Disciples. That’s how they will know we are His followers.

“We believe,” the Creed says. We. Not I. We. Because our faith is a community faith. We do this thing together. We believe.