By Mark Caldwell
St. Peter’s United Methodist Church
First, read Romans 6:1-5
We had no idea that we were going to the thirty-eighth parallel: the notorious Demilitarized Zone on the border of North and South Korea. Although called a ‘de-militarized zone’, it is well known that this is the most heavily armed border in the world. Our seminary group, hosted by the Kwanglim Methodist Church in South Korea was informed the prior day that we would be joining members of the congregation for an early morning of prayer.
What we didn’t know is that we would be joining their congregation’s prayer services for Korean unification throughout the region. A few of us ended up with a prayer group on the thirty-eighth parallel overlooking the fortifications of the border between North and South Korea. Soldiers, fences, minefields and military hardware were a striking image of the face of separation.
For most of us, divisions are discernible yet tolerable. Take the current state of America: there is a political polarization that is noticeable, yet understood in our political climate. The state of our Church is similar in that we have divisions over worship styles, access to grace and what actions constitute Christian behavior. Some may say there is division in the Church — but when you look at the passionate hearts of those with strong, Christian convictions — you see a unified spirit.
A slogan adopted by various denominations, including Methodists states, “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” One of our essentials as followers of Christ is that we see the death and resurrection of Jesus as a unifying act as seen in Romans 6. In communion, we see this represented through the tearing of bread and the pouring of the cup. How could one’s broken body bring unification to a broken world?
Ask a follower of Jesus. We will tell you that there is hope, healing and reconciliation in Jesus. Although many things may divide Christians — we find that the essential similarities unify us with passionate and harmonious convictions.
May that unifying passion for Jesus transcend denominations, worship styles or our biased personal preferences. May our Christian habits develop to look like those Koreans whom our seminary group fervently prayed with for unification. May we, the followers of Christ not only respect, but also love those others who follow Christ — and even those who do not.
Prayer: Loving Lord, understand our passions and their misplacement. Give us one heart in your grace so that we may see others as children in your gaze and in so doing, may we never see ourselves as elevated above others because of our own beliefs or piety. Give us humble hearts so that we may model for others the reality that all of us are sinners redeemed by your grace. And in that reality, may we never think that it is our acts that gained us your love, but that your love alone made this unity in grace a possibility. Amen.
Discussion/ Reflection Questions:
1. How can Jesus mend the divisions of the world through you?
2. What does harmony look like through the lens of Christ?
3. How can you model unity — even with one who is seemingly different from you?