The Bible speaks of unity as something that is “good and pleasant” (Psalm 133:1), and in unity “The Lord bestows His blessings” (Psalm 133:3). Jesus prayed for Christian unity, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me” (John 17:23).
For 200 years after the Protestant Reformation, the churches had tried to achieve unity by force. Countless martyrs, both Protestant and Catholic, were created by wars and persecution. The only unity achieved was the unity of the grave.
By the early 17th century, the nations were starting to appreciate the benefits of tolerance, but were unable to find a way to realize the promised benefits of Christian unity. They had not yet learned that unity is not the same as uniformity. To quote Pope Benedict XVI, “We should first try to find unity through diversity, in other words to accept what is fruitful in our divisions, to detoxify them, and to welcome the positive things that come precisely from diversity.”
It was not until the 18th century that Christians were taking their first halting steps toward unity in diversity, in the American Colonies.
The 13 American Colonies were a patchwork of religious beliefs. The Puritans were in Massachusetts, Quakers in Pennsylvania, Anglicans in Virginia, and Catholics in Maryland. Many other denominations were represented and quite a few Americans who had no religion at all. To reach this diverse group of people, God had to send something which would transcend their religious communities, which came to be known as the Great Awakening.
Beginning in 1739, George Whitfield preached the same message to all denominations, including Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Anglicans, Catholics, Quakers, Puritans, and Moravians. And, whereas prior reformers had tried to form new, pure denominations, Whitefield wanted his followers to reform the denomination they were in. Whitfield was the first to unite the Christians in the diverse denominations in Christ.
The Great Awakening prepared the American Colonies to unanimously come together to declare in the Declaration of Independence that God created all men equal. After the revolution the Americans united in their diversity to form the United States of America. When the Second Great Awakening came in 1801, it featured the largest Ecumenical meeting up to that point in modern history and Americans united in their diversity to help the needy and spread the Gospel at home and around the world.
Today America struggles under the weight of division as the Churches seem to be split between those who want only to help the needy and those who want only to spread the Gospel. Yet, if the nation is to survive, the Churches must unite in their diversity to both care for the needy and spread the gospel.
We must cry out to God for an awakening of unity in diversity which transcends the denominations like the Great Awakening and brings Americans together as in the meetings of the Second Great Awakening.
We ask you to pray for repentance, church unity, and healing our land during the 40 day Jewish season of Teshuvah, which begins with the Great American Eclipse on August 21 (See www.Teshuvah2017.com), and participate in ecumenical meetings such as Kairos 2017 to be held in Kansas City on October 24-26, 2017 (see www.kairos2017.com) .
Above all, pray that another Great Awakening will come to America’s we unite in our diversity once more.