Have you ever noticed that people tend to grow closer to those around them whenever they go through hard times together? Take a military situation. You hear all the time about how military groups are like brothers (or sisters…). Because of the hard times of conflict they go through together, whether it’s tough training or actual combat, they end up growing closer to each other. Another good example is sports teams. Voddie Baucham talks about this in today’s lesson of The Ever Loving Truth. He played college football, and was expected to be drafted into the NFL, prior to quitting altogether to enter the ministry. He says,
“I miss walking out of the tunnel on game day. I miss the feeling of walking into hostile territory and seeing a sea of the opposing team’s colors. There is perhaps no other time during which the unity of a team is more evident. When you are in someone else’s stadium and are the only ones wearing the wrong colors, when people are hurling insults at you (and certain objects as well) — that’s when you look at the guy next to you and see an extension of yourself. That’s when all differences are cast aside, and the task at hand takes center stage.”
I can relate to that. I didn’t play high school football, but I did play basketball, and I am familiar with the feelings that come with walking into your rival’s gym and feeling closer to a group of guys that are walking out there with you, some of whom you don’t even really like outside of that situation.
So how does this relate to us as Christians? I’m glad you asked.
Jesus, not too long prior to His death, prayed a prayer which is recorded in John 17. Verses 13-23 go a little something like this:
13“I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 20My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (emphasis added, in multiple places)
Jesus touches on a lot of good ground in this prayer, but 3 things really stand out. First, because of God’s Word in us, we will have conflict with the world. God sanctifies us (sets us apart as sacred) through His Word. Second, because we have Jesus inside of us, believers are unified. And third, the unity that we share as believers is the tool that validates the identity of Christ to the rest of the world.
The first point is pretty simple. The Bible’s teachings are pretty clear cut in a lot of areas, and let’s face it – most of the time, most people don’t live up to that standard. Take the widespread acceptance of homosexuality and the push for the legalization of gay marriage. It’s not that I, nor any other Christian I know hates gay people. But using the Bible as our standard, we see homosexuality as wrong (see Romans 1:21-32). It would be wrong of us to focus only on that one area though. The Bible condemns many other sins, and most of them, it brings up a lot more often than homosexuality. But we still can’t sit here and say homosexuality is okay. That would be ignoring the truth.
Because of our stand for truth, based on God’s Word, we are in conflict with the world around us. We may not have asked for it, but it came to us anyway. The good news is, we will only grow closer to each other through our shared conflict. Just like a “band of brothers” in the Army, or a football team, believers will only grow closer to each other the more the world hates us. God’s Word is the marker that we all hold dear – it’s the thing that unifies us. It’s what we all have in common. And the world will see our unity, and inside of that unity, it will see Jesus. It will know that nothing could bring such a diverse group of people together but a shared belief in something real. That belief is Jesus.