Every year, when high school swimming season rolled around, our coach would gather the entire team for a meeting, and at that meeting, he would give the exact same speech. By the time I was a senior, I probably could have delivered it if I had been asked to. The central premise of the speech was this: there are plenty of times when a team he had coached competed and won on a much larger scale than they ever should have because they were a team. Individual talent can perform all day long, but when a team comes together they can accomplish things the individual never will be able to.
There were several times throughout my high school career as a swimmer where I had to swim what my coach and I liked to affectionately call “the gauntlet.” I would be entered in the 200-yard freestyle relay, the 500-yard freestyle, the 100-yard breaststroke, and the 400-yard freestyle relay all which would occur within the span of about twenty-five minutes. I would essentially finish swimming one race, get out of the pool, and get right back on the blocks for the next race. It was brutal. By the end, I would be so exhausted that it would take all that I had to just to pull myself out of the pool. Yet, each and every time, as I finished my leg of the 400-yard freestyle relay, I would be overrun with a burst of energy to pull myself up and yell as my teammate brought home the final leg of the relay. I would hardly be able to breathe by that point, yet somehow I would overcome that to shout along with everyone else as they reached in to touch the wall.
There is something powerful and uplifting about being united with a group of people towards a common cause, and this is no secret to Christianity or the Bible. The whole of the New Testament centers around this idea of being united as one, and I would argue that it is one of the most stressed points in the whole of Scripture.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.“
John 13:35 ESV
Here, Christ states that the key identifying factor for those that follow Him should be that they are united in love. Yet today, the Church as a whole is not known for its love; on the contrary, in our society, we are known for our hatred and our division. While there are, I believe, some very good reasons for some of those divisions, we still fail to show that love and unity on an individual level. While I am not saying we must all come together, join hands, and sing Kumbaya, (I do not think that would be practical or altogether useful), fixing this problem of unity ultimately has to begin on a personal level. Not at some international summit between leaders of different denominations, but here, at home, in each of our lives.
We, as Christians, need to set aside our trivial judgments, our opinionated prejudices, our unholy enmity towards one another and learn what it means to love sacrificially. To present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God but through those around us. The passage on presenting ourselves as living sacrifices comes in the context of Romans 12, an entire chapter on living in unity as one body and serving one another. This is something that is much easier said than done, but, when it is carried through, the effects are immeasurable.
Humility and unity are two things that walk hand-in-hand. We must first accept that we are worth nothing more and nothing less than those around—that we have all been made equal in Christ (Galatians 3:28). Then we must learn to set aside our own wants and needs in service to others. Romans 12:10 states that we should seek to outdo one another in showing love and honoring others. There are thousands of verses that speak to this concept of doing all that we can to treat others better than ourselves, and they not only serve to heighten the sense of importance found in this command but they also act as a reminder everytime we open our Bibles that we should be actively working to display or love for others. No matter who they are, what they have done, or where they came from. It should always be our number one priority to show them love, just as we would a part of our own body.
With the love of Christ,
“Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
1 John 3:18 ESV