When Jesus prayed that his followers would be one, as he and the Father are one, I wonder if he could see more than 2,000 years into the future to the time and place where we live now. I believe his Father could and did. I believe God knew what our day and age would be like. I believe he could see the rancor and bitterness and angry division among people in our nation—and here I’m talking about the church not our political system or social structures.
I wonder if God is sad, perhaps even righteously angry about how we draw lines between one another over issues that are less about the gospel and more about making sure we think enough the same about the gospel before we’re willing to recognize the spirit of Jesus in one another.
I haven’t been Mennonite Brethren all my life. I came to it from a pretty varied theological background. One of the things that is attractive to me is the idea that Mennonite Brethren believe that we learn more theological truth by imitating Jesus than we do by trying to understand a system of doctrines drawn from Paul’s correction of those who were doing a poor job of imitation within the New Testament church. Jesus is the center of our theology; the epistles are the clarifying corrective.
Not all of us come to God’s Word in this way. Many of us, myself included at times, want God’s Word to all fit together in a complete and harmonized system of thought, where there aren’t any ambiguities, and uncertainty isn’t a word we use in church. I wish there wasn’t any mystery to God. I wish I understood God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit without having any question unanswered or situation uncovered by a bedrock theological truth. However, I suspect that the very reason Jesus prayed for unity that night was because God is more mystery than we even know and definitely more than we can handle.
My greatest fear for us is that we will continue to slide down the path toward greater division and increasingly forsake the core of the gospel for partisan theological perspectives. I fear that we will forsake the Jesus way and instead increasingly embrace the way of our divided nation and world. So, I pray.
I pray that my own heart won’t be drawn toward division. I pray that I’ll live and think and dream within the core of Jesus’ heart and mind. I pray that our churches will be more focused on living the way of Jesus than deciphering the way that Scripture fits together. I pray that pastors will be good examples and the members of their church good imitators of Jesus. I pray that we will survive this season in our world, our nation and our communities. I pray. It may be all I can do anymore.
Tim Sullivan has served as the Southern District Conference minister since 2004. He is married to Donna who is the U.S. Conference administrative secretary and bookkeeper. They live in Wichita, Kansas, and have three married children and eight grandchildren. Sullivan enjoys hunting, fishing, riding bicycle and showing his grandchildren the wonders of God’s creation