Rise and Shine! In the Name of Unity
By Terri C
~How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!~
From Psalm 133
“Unity” is a word often tossed about in “religious” communities. But what does the word really mean? With all of the different religious sects, can there be a unity in our love for God? Too often, when someone says “unity” what they are really saying is “Believe just like I believe, or you’re out!” If this were not the case, there would be one place to worship and learn about our Creator in every town. Here where I live, there are more than forty places to choose from! I’d imagine you can say the same thing about your town. Can we go about being a “light” when everywhere we turn, we see people who believe their “religion” is the only “right” one? Absolutely! The Tanakh lays out specific guidelines for us to follow to live the most productive life we can live while wearing these coats of flesh. Going about shining God’s Light is not about being “right” but about being righteous. There is a HUGE difference! The first thing we need to do before setting out in the name of unity is to check ourselves, our “rightness” and our righteousness. We check ourselves by securing our connection to the source of Light through prayer and Scripture study. If we go about thinking “our way” is God’s Way, then we have stuffed Him into a box, according to our definition and understanding of who He is. We are mistaken in thinking that He is contained within any limits we can set. It’s only when we have reached a certain maturity that we want to fit in His “box” and not fit Him in ours. Only then we can go about living in unity with others. Yes, we can Shine His Light, even on those who do not agree with the finer points of our “religion”. Here are some things to consider when interacting with those whose beliefs may differ from our own:
- We begin on common ground, that God IS. In some cases, many cases, that will be the only common ground we have with someone of a different religion. It’s enough. We can get together with those who have a different doctrine than we follow to do good. How we feel about baptism or original sin shouldn’t interfere with our common goal of feeding the homeless, visiting the infirm or helping our neighbor. That God has clearly told us to do it should be enough reason for us. Fussing and fighting play no part in improving the quality of life for anyone, OR in our own walk!
- Discuss issues without arguing. Nothing brings less glory to God, in my opinion, than watching an argument unfold in a comments thread. I know Atheists who are kinder to their fellow man than what I have seen from the believers who are claiming to love God! There is nothing wrong with sharing your viewpoints, as long as you are backing them both with Scripture, and with your actions. Seeds can be planted during these discussions, and people can be prompted to do a little digging in the Tanakh on their own. However, being told they are flat-out wrong, misinformed or just stubborn won’t encourage anyone to do anything except defend their stance. Instead, encourage everyone to keep seeking, keep digging and keep learning!
- Understand the value of questions as answers. When God grants us revelation to the bigger truths about Himself and His Scriptures, understandably our friends will have many great questions, as well they should. Even though an answer now seems crystal clear to us, we must remember that it was in our systematic search of God’s Words that our answer came. We didn’t (if we are students of Scripture) just believe what someone else told us. Why would we expect our friends to? A quick example for using this “question as answer” method would look like this:
Friend: But wasn’t Jesus the Pass Over Lamb?
You: I thought that same thing, but was amazed and astounded when I began to look at the subject through the lens of Torah. Have you considered studying this “lamb” and what it represents, and what it is or isn’t in the Exodus story?
Friend: Not really, I have just always thought….
You: I’m learning that what doesn’t align with Torah doesn’t align with truth. I would encourage you to study this out. Then, we can look together at the things that have come to your mind as you studied.
~Now the person you are talking to has the opportunity to seek God through His Word, where HE (and not us) can reveal His truth. It’s no longer our opinion against theirs, but a genuine “What does God say about it?” kind of question!
- Be respectful to where anyone may be in their journey. Seems unnecessary to add to this list, doesn’t it? But yet, too often we forget that our own journey to truth has been long and not always on point. There was a time (most likely) when we couldn’t spout Hebraic phrases, or know which Prophets said what about the “end of days”. Who are we to tell others what their own journey should look like, or how long it should take them to get where we think we are on this Path to the Infinite? God says we WILL find Him when we search with all our hearts. We must trust Him and know that the same truth applies to all who seek. We must let kindness rule our hearts, minds and mouth when dealing with others. Always. That’s when we are most apt to be heard, and most likely to encourage others to keep seeking!
- Walk our Talk. Here on this side of the cross, we find that God provides doorways to Himself in even the most unlikely places for the most unlikely people. When we put “hands and feet” to our beliefs, people take note! When they take note, God will present a door for them, too. No amount of Scriptural knowledge we have can move someone closer to God. It’s a certain peace we carry, a certain way we deal with our problems, a certain way we exemplify our faith and belief that will inspire others to wonder what “secret” we hold. More importantly, they will be inspired to learn if they can have the same things! We know that when we walk in God’s Way and not just talk about it, we do, indeed, have the “key” to living with great peace and joy!
This “living in unity” thing has not been an easy transition for me. I’ll be completely honest with you about that! When I came to see God alone as my only redeemer and salvation, it was necessary for me to distance myself from believers who still stand in Jesus as the only “way”. Too much new information was coming at me when I first took my “Jesus glasses” off to be concerned with the warnings and insults I was receiving from those who just weeks before had called me “Sister”. I worried about mixing the Holy with the profane. I worried about the Scripture that says “Can two walk together, except they agree?” (Amos 3) I worried about idolatry. I worried about being right. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to answer all of my friends’ questions. Even today, I still cannot. But I’m worrying less and less about it. I am learning to trust that God will use what He will use to reach those whom He will reach. How could I have ever thought He was any less powerful than that? If God wants to speak to someone from a Bazooka Joe bubble gum wrapper cartoon, He CAN! If He wants to reach someone using the beauty and perfection of nature, He CAN! If He wants to reach a Muslim or an Atheist in any way He sees fit, He CAN! Knowing this, why would I question whether or not He can use even someone’s belief in Jesus to further His own agenda? Certainly, I once believed in the writings of the “new testament”! Yet, here I stand today, after seeking with ALL of my heart, being willing to be wrong, and not resting until I’d uncovered the truth of His Torah…that He is One. I don’t have to hate anyone who believes differently than I do. I simply need to love God, and walk in the Way He has outlined for me in His Torah. There will be a day when ALL flesh will know ALL answers, and ALL flesh will proclaim Him to be God, (Isaiah 45) and ALL flesh will worship Him as such! (Isaiah 66) Until then, it is on me, and on you as well, to Rise and Shine!