We can all breathe a collective sigh of relief: The election is over!
No more daily robo-calls; no more negative TV ads; no more campaign flyers filling our mailboxes. Politics have always been polarizing in our nation. There is a long tradition of candidates slinging mud at each other. Elections are, by their very nature, divisive. But this year's presidential campaign seemed to have gone far beyond anything we've experienced before.
The election may be over, but I'm afraid the divide remains. Many are asking the question, "Why can't we all just get along?"
This is not just true in the political arena, however. Lots of folks feel the same way when it comes to religion. Within Christianity, there are tens of thousands of different denominations, branches and sects. Wouldn't the Christian church be better served if we all worked together? Wouldn't Jesus want us to get along with each other as his followers?
The answer to those questions is yes. On the night of his betrayal, Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers. As he prayed for strength for his disciples, he also prayed for those who would come to faith in him in the future. He said, "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). Jesus wanted his followers to be united, not divided. Our desire as Christians is the same.
Too often, however, it seems that those who decry the fact that not all Christians are walking together fail to recognize that there are genuine, profound differences in teachings and beliefs among Christian churches. True unity can only be achieved when Christians believe the same thing. Anything short of that is promoting a false unity, one which merely sweeps differences under the rug.
When Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers, he wasn't implying that they should ignore differences or dummy down the Christian faith. Before he ascended into heaven, he commanded his disciples to teach "everything I have commanded you," (Matthew 28:20) not just the basics. Through his apostle Paul, Jesus told his followers to "watch out for" those who preach and teach things that are different from the pure doctrine they have learned from the Bible and to "keep away from them" (Romans 16:17).
True unity among Christians can only be achieved by genuine agreement on what the Bible teaches. That doesn't mean that denominations and churches ought to fight each other and sling mud at one another like candidates in an election battle. We shouldn't. We need to recognize that the body of Christ, that is, the Holy Christian Church, includes all who believe that Jesus is the Son of God and trust in him as their Savior. No one church or denomination has a lock on that.
We should join in our Savior's prayer for unity among Christians. We should work toward reaching that goal. But such unity cannot be achieved on the basis of compromise. Rather, unity can only be achieved by agreeing on what God says in his Word, by professing that faith together, and by holding to that faith without compromise.