June 15, 2019 by Joe Rodriguez
What does the U.S. motto “E Pluribus Unum,” John Donne’s famous line, “No man is an island entire of itself,” and the High Shcool Musical song “We’re All in This Together” have in common? Hint -The title of this devotion.
Consider this, lighthouses differ in size, shape, and color but so do stars. Yet all the lighthouses in the world and all the stars in the sky have one amazing thing in common, they radiate light. Their light has been used to guide people and illuminate the darkest of nights for centuries/millenniums.
Perhaps you can think of other things that differ in size, shape, and color that also shine. But the featured lighthouse image reminded me that there is something whose diversity and brightness is far more compelling than that of anything in the universe. In fact, its design, purpose, and effectiveness are not only unfathomable but even mysterious to some degree. It is something that came into existence about 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem when thousands of Jews had gathered to celebrate a harvest festival called Pentecost. Some close followers of Jesus expected to participate in the customary yearly festivities, but their plans changed upon receiving instructions from Jesus himself to go into the city and wait for the Father’s promise. On the tenth day after Jesus ascended back to heaven, they obediently gathered together in an upper room near the temple. Suddenly it came to pass. The promised Comforter, the Holy Spirit, came and filled the place where they were staying.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” – Acts 2:1-4
What happened next was a spectacular event marked by supernatural signs and a powerful sermon that had an overwhelming response. 120 obedient disciples saw 3,000 new converts added to their group. Immediately thereafter, they began meeting together regularly, experiencing the power of God’s presence, and displaying a beautiful sense of oneness. From that day forward the gathering continued to grow exponentially. This is considered to be the birth of the church of Jesus Christ.
“Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd… Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day…Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” – Acts 2:14a, 41, 46-47.
Approximately 20 years later, the Apostle Paul wrote to the believers in Rome encouraging them to stay humble and to build each other up. It was the first time that Christ’s followers were compared to parts of a human body and referred to as part of the body of Christ.
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.” – 1 Corinthians 12:27
This ONE body of believers is made of people of all shapes, sizes, and colors. And although they are from every tribe and nation under heaven and belong to different Christian denominations, like lighthouses and stars, they also have one thing in common. Individually and collectively they all shine the glorious light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this is what I consider to be the most awesome example of diversity and unanimity at the same time.
Christians everywhere are members of that one body Paul referred to which is also known as Christ’s universal church. But they have also been called to be an extension of that body by gathering, growing, and serving in local church communities.
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:25
Local “churches” are formed whenever two or more are gathered in Jesus name to pray, worship, study the Scriptures, fellowship, and serve each other. They then fulfill their call to shine God’s love by sharing the Gospel message and by loving and serving others.
“For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” -Matthew 18:20
“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” – Ephesians 2:10
In order to effectively communicate the message of salvation, there can exist no bickering, pride, sense of theological superiority, selfish motivations, or even religious cliques among those who claim to be part of the body of Christ. What would happen if our body parts were in conflict with each other or fought to operate independently?
“For the body does not consist of one part, but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact, God has arranged the members of the body, every one of them, according to His design. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.” -1 Corinthians 12:14-20 [BSB]
To truly be part of that one body, we must put aside our doctrinal and dogmatic differences and realize that just as our physical body is a living organism composed of different parts working together so is the church of Jesus Christ. It relies on the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit and it can only function effectively if/when all of its members work in unity. For this reason, we must (tangibly) love everyone. We must also do whatever it takes to be at peace with everyone. And not just with the world, but most importantly with each other as Christians. For it is by the love we show one another that the world will know that we are truly disciples of Jesus.
“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” – 1 Corinthians 1:10
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” -Romans12:18 [NLT]
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” -John 13:35
One single star can shine on a dark night, but it would not have done much for those (farmers) who used to depend on constellations in order to determine the seasons. Nor could it have helped the travelers who used them as directional aid. One lighthouse can show the way to a lost ship and guide it to safety, but it can only do so in one particular location. It is of no use to the hundreds of ships navigating around the globe.
Likewise, individual Christians can shine for Jesus wherever they may be situated, but imagine what a group of believers (a local church) can accomplish if they join their lights and illuminate their hometown and cities with the message of hope. What would happen if billions of believers around the world (the worldwide church) would join together in one undivided mission to pray for and love the world unconditionally? I believe it is possible and it can start with you and me. Let us show the world that we can be Uniquely Unitedfor the purpose of winning souls for the kingdom of God.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for loving me enough to offer yourself as a ransom for my sins. You did it not only to grant me eternal life but so that I may become part of your church (body) and help others to know you as Lord and Savior. Help me to live in harmony with everyone, especially other believers so that together we may effectively reach the lost for your kingdom and bring glory to your name. Amen.
“This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:8
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” – Acts 1:8
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” -1 Peter 4:8
-All Scripture is quoted from the NIV except where specified.