Christian Unity: Putting aside denominational differences and varying theologies to come together as one body in Christ; celebrating the foundational beliefs we share as Christians.
Yesterday was Ecumenical (Unity) Sunday. It’s a day on the Christian calendar when Christians worldwide are reminded of the beliefs we share, to honor the oneness we have in Christ, and to celebrate the good we can do when we put differences aside and work together.
Nehemiah recognized the importance of unity of faith, oneness in God.
Nehemiah was an Israelite/Jew who had been exiled to Babylonia in the fall of Jerusalem. He must have had outstanding character because, while in Babylonia, he gained favor of the king and served as the king’s cupbearer. He, a Jew, held the most trustworthy job in the palace, for Nehemiah not only served the king, he tasted the king’s food and drink before serving to make sure it was safe for the king.
While working one day, Nehemiah met men who had traveled from the land of Judah. He inquired about his hometown of Jerusalem and was grieved to learn that Jerusalem had fallen into a terrible state of destruction. What had once been the thriving city of God’s people, where God’s presence had dwelt within the temple, was now largely in ruins. The city wall that once fortified the city, no longer stood strong.
Nehemiah fell before the Lord in mourning for God’s city and His people. He poured out his heart in prayer, confessing the sins of the Israelites that caused God to hand them over to their enemies, and sought God’s mercy for the chance to repent and serve God again.
God put it on Nehemiah’s heart to leave his fine job at the palace so he could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall. God moved the king’s heart to support Nehemiah in this mission. The king sent some of his own people to travel with Nehemiah, along with official documents requesting that kings of other lands allow safe passage for Nehemiah.
Nehemiah accepted this mission totally trusting in God’s favor and provision. Allowing God to work through him, Nehemiah was able to acquire resources and supplies and rallied the help and support of everyone from the lower class workers of Jerusalem, to the High Priest and local priests, nobles from lands outside of Jerusalem, as well as skilled workers and tradesmen.
The citizens of Jerusalem were varied people, too. Other people moved into the city while Israelites were in exile. They brought with them pagan religions, and some people served no god at all.
There were struggles from within while rebuilding the wall, and opposition from the outside, but with God’s help and blessings, the wall was rebuilt, repaired and fortified in just 52 days!
God’s city was restored! Knowing the accomplishment was God’s doing, and not his own, Nehemiah gathered all the people together, men, women, and all who could understand, for an assembly. It was time to unite the people in the hearing of God’s word.
Nehemiah 8:1-10 English Standard Version (ESV) (text copied from http://www.BibleGateway.com)
Ezra Reads the Law
8 And all the people gathered as one man into the square before the Water Gate. And they told Ezra the scribe to bring the Book of the Law of Moses that the Lord had commanded Israel. 2 So Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard, on the first day of the seventh month. 3 And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand. And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law. 4 And Ezra the scribe stood on a wooden platform that they had made for the purpose. And beside him stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah on his right hand, and Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, and Meshullam on his left hand. 5 And Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people, and as he opened it all the people stood. 6 And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground. 7 Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites,[a] helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly,[b] and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
This Day Is Holy
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
Nehemiah recognized the importance of uniting the people in the Word of God, uniting them in their beliefs, and educating those who had never heard the Word of God.
Today, as Christians, we are called to be the head, heart, hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. This means functioning in unity, based on our core Christian beliefs, as one body. We are called to do good in Jesus’ name, and in so doing, to make Him known to others. Sometimes we are called to show the love of Jesus. Other times we are called to share His story and offer His love, saving grace, and eternal salvation to others.
Sadly, though, we get so caught up in the busyness of religion, sorting out denominations, and focusing on differences of theologies, that we forget about the true meaning and calling of our Christian faith.
It’s time for Christian unity. Following Nehemiah’s example, let’s begin by being reminded of our core Christian beliefs, the foundation of our faith with The Apostles’ Creed.
THE APOSTLES’ CREED
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth;
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord:
Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilot,
was crucified, dead and buried; *
the third day he rose from the dead;
he ascended into heaven,
and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic church, **
the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body, and the live everlasting. Amen
* traditional use includes, “He descended into hell.” ** the church universal
Being reminded of the beliefs that unify us, and who we are called to be as the Christians serving as the body of Christ, let us prayerfully go before God to offer ourselves to Him, for the good He might have us to do for others. For some service will be through missions and ministries; for others service might be through simple acts of kindness, love, grace, compassion and forgiveness that make a difference in someone’s day.
Not only can we make a difference for others around us, we can also make a difference in this world, through Christian Unity, working together to share the love and saving grace of Jesus the Christ.
The Book of Nehemiah is a great story to read. Shared above is a summary from Nehemiah chapters 1-8, but his story continues in an awesome with many inspiring lessons! To read more from the scriptures and learn from commentaries, go to http://www.BibleGateway.com
God bless you. 🙂