The Hope of Unity
Amidst divisions of all sorts, we must remember that our primary commitment is to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His mission.
As with every president before him, Biden’s legislative agenda will soon make its way to the Hill, where, as someone once said, “Good dreams go to die!” With a factionalized House and an equally divided Senate, the success of the administration’s agenda will hinge on coalitions and bipartisanship.
As Christians, we know a bit about divisions and unity.
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Mark 3:13-19)
Peter was quick to speak, quick to act, and always the first person out of the boat. But he also vacillated in pledges of commitment, and his emphatic disavowing could result in whiplash. It is to this same Peter that Jesus says, “Upon this rock, I will build my church.”
John, on the other hand, was quiet, thoughtful, valued deep relationships, and took enjoyment in relaxing with his head on Jesus’ shoulder during a meal. It is John that Jesus instructs to take care of his mother as he asks his mother to do the same for John.
Matthew (also known as Levi) was a publican and tax collector. He worked as a corrupt political appointee to manage the commercial affairs of the Roman Empire, collecting taxes from his own neighbors.
Simon the Zealot was committed to the violent ouster of the Roman occupiers as well as their supporters and sympathizers. In other words, he hated tax collectors!
It is important to note that even though there were great crowds that followed Jesus because of his miraculous ability to heal the sick, silence storms on command, feed great crowds through the multiplication of fish and bread, and raise dead daughters and friends, Jesus still chose his disciples. He chose these radically diverse people.
For three years Jesus taught them with words and deeds about the steadfast love and faithfulness of God which never ceases. He explained to them that “God so loved the world that gave His only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
When the disciples lobbied for position he rebuked them, instead directing them to assume the posture of a servant loving your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus also made it clear that he was not a moral exemplar or a political aspirant, but rather “the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
In Mark 8, Peter correctly assesses the true identity of Jesus: “You are the Christ.” But moments later, Peter rejects Jesus’ clear connection between his identity and his mission, “that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
Eventually, Peter would grasp the full weight of the mission to which Jesus asked them to commit their lives: proclaiming the good news of the gospel. All of the disciples would spend the rest of their lives united in the common goal of “making disciples of all nations and teaching them to all that I have commanded.”
All except one: Judas Iscariot. For Judas, Jesus’ intention to end his life in a humiliating fashion before rising to worldly glory was not acceptable. Judas was not willing to overlook his personal and political desires and unite himself to this ridiculous cast of characters for the sake of the gospel. In order to compensate himself for his wasted time and misplaced allegiance, Judas would sell out Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.
Herein lies the perpetual question for followers of Christ: Where is your primary identity?
Personality traits and political ideologies are ever-present opportunities for disagreement and division. Some of the debates and divisions are understandable and even beneficial. But as Christians, we must remember that our primary commitment is to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and His mission. Through prioritizing the gospel over our personality and political differences, "we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love." (Ephesians 4:15-16)
Even in Washington --perhaps especially in Washington-- Christians on both sides of the aisle must remember that “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
Rev. Michael Langer is the Associate Director for D.C. Ministry and the host of the Faithful Presence podcast.