I was inspired to write this post by a video I watched from the Catholic News Service of part of Pope Francis’ general audience address of today. Needless to say, our Holy Father has been original and refreshing in his humility and simple profundity, but his comments on divisions among Christians resonated with me particularly.
Christian unity often seems like an impossible dream, and yet it is scandalous that it does not exist. Why is it so bad? Catholics and Protestants have disagreed for centuries. Even within the broad spectrum of Protestantism, there are, according to Wikipedia, an estimated 33,000 Protestant denominations.¹ Yet we all keep on living, we all agree to disagree, or just don’t talk about each other.
There. In this one sentence, we have identified the problem: a lack of dialogue. Without dialogue, we cannot know what the other believes, and how it differs from what we believe. We cannot love until we know. And we cannot come to an agreement, an understanding, until we love. Without understanding and love, we cannot have… peace.
Peace. We all seek it, whether we realize it or not. Heaven is peace, for peace is freedom from fear, pain, and wrong. It is our duty as Christians to create as much peace as possible on earth, as it says in Psalm 34, “Turn away from evil and do good; strive for peace with all your heart.” (v.4, GNT)
While we are on Bible quotes, might this one solidify the fact that we must never ever think of anyone we disagree with as inferior to us?
“If you love only the people who love you, why should you receive a blessing? Even sinners love those who love them! … No! Love your enemies and do good to them; lend and expect nothing back. You will then have a great reward, and you will be children of the Most High God.”
– Luke 6:32, 35 (GNT)
We have to love. Even when it hurts our pride, even if we know they are wrong, even if they hate us back, we must love them. The way to peace is peace, not hate, not incendiary words.
But what can we do, alone, lay people, without a loud voice in the hierarchy of Christendom? Perhaps we do not have the power to reconcile the nations, but we can make our voice heard. There are ways. And in any case, at least one guy who has a say in things obviously sees the need for unity, as countless others surely do.
Then again, we must not forget the most important way of all. We must not forget the one person who always hears our voice when we call out in longing for peace and answers us. What will bring about the grace that makes peace possible is prayer. Pray! Pray to God that His peace may fall upon the earth and enter the hearts of all its inhabitants. Pray that we will spread peace whenever we can, that we will turn the other cheek and seek to understand.
While there is evil on earth, it is given that there can never be total utter peace. But when movies still show the value of fighting for right, let us pray for peace and know that while it may not come immediately, the end is not death and chaos, but life and peace which lasts forever. It is an impossible dream, but it is one which we are called to dream, to fight for. We may never take full advantage of every opportunity to be a peacemaker, but if we do our best, we will be worthy of our calling as children of the Most High God.
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
– St. Francis of Assisi
And, my readers, please pray the same for me.
1. Protestantism – Wikipedia
Source of statistic: The World Christian Encyclopedia by David B. Barrt, George T. Kurian, and Todd M. Johnson (2001 edition)
I would also like to thank biblestudytools.com for making these Scripture quotes easy to find.