In December 1979, a tragedy occurred in my home state of Ohio. The Who rock group came to Cincinnati to perform at Riverfront Coliseum. The tickets were sold in a then-popular format called festival seating.
Ticket prices were fixed, and the best seats went to the concertgoers who could get inside most quickly. Needless to say, festival seating caused some chaos in the best of circumstances. But in Cincinnati that night, the self-centered desires for good seats led to disaster. When the doors finally opened, the impatient crowd surged forward, resulting in a crush of humanity. Eleven people were killed that night and scores injured.
I would venture that not a single person went to Riverfront Coliseum that night with idea of hurting (and especially killing) another person. But hundreds of people were primarily concerned with their own interests: getting through the door first and getting a seat close to the stage. That seemingly harmless desire met with tragic results.
The same thing can easily happen in the body of Christ. We can get so focused on an agenda or goal that we don’t realize we are spiritually wounding other members of the flock in the process. I would suggest that more often than not no one starts out with any intention of hurting another lamb. But while we are rounding up support to remove the pastor…some lambs are trampled and maybe even spiritually killed. They won’t be back. When we divide the church over an issue that is eternally inconsequential some sheep will get crushed in the process. Such injuries are often faith-threatening.
In His final hours, facing the agony of the cross, Jesus prayed for our unity as believers. When you know that you are facing your final hours you communicate what is most important. I know that if someone I dearly loved made a dying request of me I would do everything in my power to make that desire happen. The Jesus who loved me enough to suffer the cross made the dying request that I (and the rest of us in the church) demonstrate unity “to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” We have too often lost sight of that prayer in the church. It certainly seems like the least we can do in gratitude for the unmerited gift of grace and salvation He has given to us.
If only we could make a commitment to fulfill His prayer and wish for us, because unity can make a difference in our quest to restore at least some of our wounded lambs. As followers of Jesus, we have to understand that actions have consequences throughout the body of Christ and throughout eternity. For the sake of the entire flock, can we commit to pray before we speak, seek counsel before we act, and even allow situations other than “our will” to be done? That would be an excellent start toward honoring the prayer that Jesus prayed for us.