“I 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.” John 17:23
Persecution, pressure and suffering also bring about a unity that honors God. Burma is the model to which I was first exposed. Missionaries were all expelled in 1966. My first visit was in the early 1970’s. The church was a small minority in a dominant Buddhist society with a secular socialist government. On Sunday morning, I was asked to speak and break bread with the Brethren believers, in the afternoon share with the Baptists and in the evening speak at the Pentecostal church. No one asked me my denomination. I was simply a “Brother in Christ” and represented an evangelical radio organization, Far East Broadcasting Company (FEBC).
I found this unity so refreshing. And praise the Lord I have discovered it in other parts of our world, most often outside of North America. The closest geographic location is on the island of Cuba. What a joy to be with Baptist and Pentecostal pastors together who regularly spend hours on their knees before God with one another. How refreshing to attend youth evangelism meetings with a variety of denominations represented in the audience and speakers. Is there any wonder why revival continues to sweep through the island to this day?
Ugandan pastor, Kefa Sempangi, shares that under the intense persecution of Idi Amin, the Holy Spirit united the hearts of Uganda’s church leaders. The emphasis became loving one another and rejecting the earlier focus on differences and mass evangelism. He writes:
Most of us had in various ways tried to be evangelists in our own rights. In the mission command we had heard as young converts, the emphasis had been on go, not love. It was the ministry, not the brethren, that was most important. As a result we had come to love our sermons more than the people to whom we preached. We had come to love the faceless converts of mass evangelism more than our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now as the Holy Spirit began to unite our hearts we saw that before the Great Commission, came the commandment: love one another. We were to confess and reject our disagreements. In the past we had majored on our differences—Anglicans did not say hello to Baptists and, when a Pentecostal met a Roman Catholic, he did not feel he was meeting a brother. But now we heard God’s call to live broken lives before one another. We were not to build our fellowship on the foundation of baptism, tongues or liturgy. We were to build on the reconciling blood of Jesus Christ.”
RESPONSE: Today I will rejoice in God’s plan and God’s will: that His children walk together in unity.
PRAYER: Lord, may my love for brothers and sisters today, and the resulting unity, show the world that You sent Jesus.
1. F. Kefa Sempangi with Barbara R. Thompson. A Distant Grief (Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1979), pp. 42-43.