Sunday, April 3, 2016

Matthew 12:25, 30: Christian Unity

Jesus said to [the Pharisees], “Any country that divides itself into groups which fight each other will not last very long. And any town or family that divides itself into groups which fight each other will fall apart . . . .  Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering.” (Good News Translation)

The Pharisees cause disunity in the Jewish community by condemning Jesus’ healings, attributing them as not coming from God. Jesus’ reply points out the collapse caused by disunity, a kingdom divided into groups will fall apart. And there are several important lessons here. Israel, at the time of Matthew's narrative, was divided into four main factions of Jews: Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots. In addition, there were the Samaritans who, although they worshipped the God of Abraham and Moses, were not even considered Jews by the Israelites.  Finally, there was the division of those who believed in Jesus as the Messianic fulfillment, God’s Christ, and there were those who, like these Pharisee’s in this text, rejected and condemned Jesus. Israel, God’s chosen people, were divided.

The same message holds true to Christians in today’s church. Unfortunately, many ultra-conservative, traditionalist Catholics and Protestants focus on doctrinal, historical, and political issues as a means of division and disunity. This rift, as a result, causes those faithful to Jesus Christ to sometimes resent and condemn each other because of their divided worldviews.

Recently, I was drawn into an argument by a distant relative. She was excited to see that I had surrendered my life to Christ since she, too, recently discovered Christ’s love in her life.  However, once she found out that I was a Roman Catholic, she denounced me as a non-Christian. Out of curiosity, I asked why she thought this. Through her response, I discerned the following: Misinformed by media outlets and anti-Catholic rhetoric from those in her church, she, as an emerging Christian, received poor catechesis in our ecumenical Christian faith. My initial reaction was to be offended and upset; instead, God gave me the grace to pray.  After all, that is what Jesus teaches in John 17:21 when he prays the high priestly prayer: “I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.” At the end of it all, we agreed on one beautiful thing that bonds us together -- Christ’s love and mercy.

As Christians, whether Orthodox, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, or non-denominational, we all follow the teachings and way of Jesus Christ, are grafted into Christ through Baptism, hold the Bible as sacred, and aim to love God and neighbor. Our hope, then, in Christ, is to unite and not divide. Jesus says, “Anyone who is not for me is really against me; anyone who does not help me gather is really scattering” (Matthew 12:30). Let us join together and be gatherers for Christ!

Please join me in prayer:
Lord Jesus, let us all, united in you, be gatherers. Let our lives be a reflection of Christian unity and love brought together in you. Let our arms, hands, feet, and hearts work as one body gathering all in unity into your love. Amen.

May the peace and love of Christ be with you all.