In his letter to the Romans, Paul separates humanity into two categories: (1) those who have the Spirit of Christ in them, and (2) those who do not have the Spirit of Christ in them.
Someone having a perceived flawless theology and a vast command of Scripture and theological intricacies does not always equate to having the Spirit of Christ. The Pharisees illustrate that point quite well.
Our task is to love all people, but Jesus places a heavy emphasis that those of us who have the Spirit of Christ in us ought to love another.
Now, I’m guessing some may be quietly protesting that we must be diligent in our theology so we can determine who does or who does not have the Spirit of Christ in them, so we know exactly who we are commanded to love.
But do we really think the evidence of the Spirit of Christ in someone’s life is fundamentally related to their understanding of transubstantiation, modalistic Monarchianism, or the Alexandrian manuscripts?
So why, ultimately, does this matter? Why can’t I just work on loving those in my congregation or those in my denomination? Why can’t I focus on loving other Evangelicals (whatever that exactly means)? Why would I reach across such theological boundaries to engage, befriend, or even pray with another pastor (or priest) from a theological framework quite different from my own (and likely wrong)?
My answer is this: evangelism.
In John 17, the same evening he gave the disciples the command to love one another, he also prayed for them. The context would suggest that they were surrounding Jesus at the table as he prayed for them, and as they listened in:
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20-23)
The focus of that prayer? Unity. Oneness
And what was the end result of that “complete unity”? Mass evangelization. “That the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you loved me.”
Yes, we need to train our people in sharing the Good News of Jesus with their friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Steps to Peace with God. The Four Spiritual Laws. The Roman Road. Alpha. Evangelism Explosion. We need to pray for the lost.
But Jesus’ prayer for the unity of his disciples seems to be acknowledging to God and to the listening disciples that perhaps something in the invisible world is “unlocked” when we are at least as diligent about unity and about loving one another as we are about doctrinal correctness.
Scripture tells us that through his supernatural power the god of this age “has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4). Is it possible, then, that God’s prescribed way of combating the spiritual blindness and opening the eyes of our friends, neighbors, and co-workers is by means of the superior supernatural power of the Holy Spirit catalyzed by our unity?
And if that is true (which I think it is), then perhaps, with zeal, could we travel beyond our comfortable theological tribes and villages in order to befriend, encourage, support, and love other pastors and priests (who have the Spirit of Christ in them) in our own community?
“The most important part of your ministry is that to other ministers. Come to know them and begin to get over the idea of separation and competition,” says Willard.
Could we pastors, priests, and ministry professionals begin to finally “get over” the idea of separation and competition so that the spiritually blind eyes of our friend’s neighbors and co-workers might see Jesus as he really is?