United We Stand

Divided we Fall. Lincoln was so committed to the idea  of unity, he went to war to keep America one nation under God. Along the way he freed an enslaved race. His ideal came from Jesus, from whom he learned, “A house divided against itself cannot stand. (Mark 3: 23, 24).

Blind Spots. We Christians need to adjust our mirrors to see a glaring blind spot. We  celebrate that we are a united nation under God, yet happily engage in our own separate ministries, ignoring the work of our brethren down the street. Accordingly, we are plagued with a plethora of sects, denominations, non-denominations and churches next door who rarely speak. Sadly, we have not only distanced ourselves from one another, I have heard folks celebrate our separateness. In fact…

I played my part in this absurdity, teaching that our schisms were a part of God’s plan to meet the many different needs and wants of various people.  I once said, “It’s true that we have many divisions, but we are still one army.” Foolishness! Many pastors such as myself went our own way, laboring to preserve our turf, our traditions, our denominational ties and our own ballyhooed doctrinal viewpoints.

Cooperating or Competing? We never admitted or were probably not aware of it, but we were virtually  competing with one another for members. We did make vague genuflections in the direction of cooperation with fellow churches. But our goal was to keep our own institutions alive and well.

What Would Jesus Say? Would he applaud our divisiveness or would he say, “It’s just as I told you! Divided against yourselves leads to failure.” And we did fail and we are still failing. Many churches have had to close its doors. But the real tragedy is our failure to fulfill Jesus  mission to  “Seek to save those who are lost.” Millions in recent generations remain virtually untouched by the good news of Christ’s love and forgiveness, lost not found.

How to Lose a War Without Hardly Trying I was shocked recently at a documentary about Nazi Germany’s invasion of the USSR in 1942. Again and again generals, on both sides, led their men into disastrous defeats  with casualties in the millions.  Often it was due to poor cooperation and coordination. Even more millions died by the failures of both Stalin and Hitler to listen to their commanders on the  ground. Despite the pleas and advice of their generals, these dictators made horrendous decisions based on their whims. The loss of life was unprecedented. In the end, Russia’s winters and vastness prevailed, leading to Germany’s disastrous defeat.

United Stand and Prevail In stark contrast was the war effort of the allies, named  the United Nations, although these nations were far from united. Operation Overlord, led by Generals Eisenhower and Bradley, ultimately won a great victory over Nazi Germany. They had a tough job. You can imagine difficulties heading up the military of a polyglot of 38 different nations, each with their own agendas and viewpoints.In addition, some of their most brilliant generals, with giant egos, competed and jockeyed for position and glory.  But Ike and Omar would have none of it. “Work together and get along,” they were warned,”or we’ll find those who will.”  The cost was great, but no where near the millions killed and wounded in Russia. This was due in large part to the superior strategy, including their  demand for unity among their leaders.

Another plus was the unanimity between them and their political leaders.  Churchill and Roosevelt were not only on the same page as their generals, they placed full confidence in how they conducted the war. Like Lincoln, unity was demanded and expected on all fronts.

It isstrategy that wins wars and a strategy Jesus mandated as well.  We know this from his prayer in John 17: “Father may they be one with each other as we are, that the world may believe.”

How can we go and do likewise? Please join the conversation.