Recently, I was listening to a talk Francis Chan gave at a Church Leaders Conference. I love listening to Francis Chan because he has such a gentle, yet powerful way of presenting truth, and he does it in a very simple way.
It was the perfect talk to hear before going on our youth group mission trip to Tennessee because the message made a great point about reaching the world. Stepping out to serve in various campgrounds where we will be leading Backyard Bible Clubs and leading evangelistic outreach events for families, it is important to be reminded of how God wants us to work together as a team.
After a few friendly opening lines, Chan got right to his point. “God wants oneness amongst us.”
He put a picture of his family up on a screen and talked about how close they were. He said if he and his wife and children could just go to an island and live all by themselves, he would be perfectly happy. I understand that. Families can provide us with that safe place where we experience unconditional love—where everyone is on your team—where you’re working together for a common goal and know you’re loved and supported.
To drive home the point about family oneness, Francis explained that if someone were to try to divide his family, break them apart and drive a wedge between them, he would be incredibly upset. He loves his family and their unity. He does not want that destroyed.
And God wants that from His children as well—He wants that from us.
Jesus prayed for unity in the church at the end of His life. In John 17:20-21 Jesus prayed, “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” In His powerful prayer, Jesus asked for believers of the future to be one. He also said something interesting that Chan pointed out. “so that the world may believe that You sent Me.” Interesting. Chan explains that we often think that the way to help people believe is to prove it with apologetics—to explain away the unbeliever’s doubts. But while apologetics may be important, that’s not what Jesus prayed for. He prayed for oneness to help the world believe.
It doesn’t take much to see how divided our world is right now. Turn on the television for just a few minutes and you get smacked in the face with it. Political tension, racial tension, and moral tensions are all over the place—obvious signs of disunity. But look around the church. Chan points out that within the church we judge one another and split up into little groups that divide us. While he agrees that there are the essentials of what defines a true believer—there are many minor things that the church divides over that destroy that oneness God so desperately wants us to have. Jesus tells us that it’s that oneness in the church that will help the world believe!
points his listeners to Proverbs 6:16-19. There are six things which
the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty
eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers” (NASB). It is interesting to note that God singles out number seven—one who spreads strife among brothers. God hates disunity—He says it is an abomination to Him to spread strife among brothers. Chan went back to his earlier point about his family and how angry he would be if someone tried to cause strife in His family. God feels the same way.
Scripture is filled with verses about unity, about working through problems, about forgiveness, about loving one another. You can’t get away from it—God does not want strife and disunity among His children.
Then Chan quoted Titus 3:10 “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned” (ESV). Those are some strong words—but they are God’s Words and we can’t forget it. God hates division.
Division is how the world lives. God wants us to be different. Work through our differences and love one another.
Last year at our youth conference, the theme focused on the book of 1 John. Some of the youth have said 1 John has been our theme book this year in youth group as God has reminded us in so many ways to turn back to those verses.
1 John 4:20-21 “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (ESV).
God takes unity among His children very seriously—and so should we. Those verses are serious, hard-hitting verses.
If you have the opportunity to listen to Chan’s talk, you can find it on YouTube. It’s entitled, Francis Chan: Peace in the Church.