by Jerry Kieschnick
The festival of the Epiphany, which we celebrate Jan. 6, remembers the visit of the Magi, apparently the first gentiles to worship the Christ child. We are reminded that Jesus came not only to save His own people, but all people, Jews and gentiles alike.
Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). In Christ, we are one people, regardless of our ethnicity, social standing, or gender.
We seek to be “One People” in our Synod. Again, Paul writes, “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, striving side-by-side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27).
Permit me to suggest seven characteristics that I pray will mark our living together and working together as One People:
- United in confession of faith. Our Synod’s very first bylaw notes, “Committed to a common confession and mission, congregations of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod join with one another in the Synod to support one another and to work together in carrying out their commonly adopted objectives.”
- Share a Common Vision. Helen Keller once said, “The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight but has no vision.” In John 4, Jesus says, “Do you not say, ‘Four months more and then the harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” When we see that the fields are ripe for the harvest, we share the common vision of the church of all ages.
- Be Loyal to One Another. In 1 Samuel 19, Jonathan spoke well of David to Saul his father and said to him, “Let not the king do wrong to his servant David; he has not wronged you, and what he has done has benefited you greatly.” Jonathan put his life on the line for David. As One People, we are loyal to one another and to our church. We defend and speak well of the church and of one another with the loyalty that Christ has toward us.
- Encourage One Another. Paul wrote, “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thess. 5:11). Too often I have heard that when some try creatively to reach the lost for Christ, they are met with criticism instead of encouragement. Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities of darkness. As One People, we stand beside and encourage one another.
- Trust One Another. Scripture calls upon us to trust in God. In so doing, we also learn to trust one another. “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust” (Acts 14:23). It was trust in the Lord on which these appointments were established. Trust among us flows from our trust in God.
- Be Truthful with One Another. Lies and deceit will destroy the One People of God like a cancer. “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ” (Eph. 4:5). The One People will grow strong when the truth is spoken in love among us also.
- Love One Another. Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). The love that Christ has shown us motivates us also to love one another. And to love one another is nothing less than the heartbeat of the body we call One People.
As One People, we can all set our sights on the One Mission of seeking the lost by proclaiming the One Message that Jesus Christ alone is the Savior of the world. As we focus on these worthy and God-pleasing actions, we will be Ablaze! And we will accomplish far greater things working together for God than if we are working apart.