Gather Into One

Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.” Now he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.John 11:47-53 NASB

What an amazing display of God’s glory it would be if we allowed Jesus to “gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” The irony of Christianity is the way it has scattered and separated us when Jesus came to gather us into one. Religious authorities in Jesus’s day were afraid of unity; they are still afraid of it.

Becoming one means letting go of all identity except for that of Jesus Christ. When I join Him as He desires and on His terms, oneness occurs. When I meet Him halfway or allow my denomination or doctrines to come between us, I will never get to that sweet place of connection. The same is true for all the connections in my life. It is heartbreaking when there is a wall between me and those I love, especially when that wall allows me to see but not be connected as I desire.

Those glass walls go up quickly when it comes to Christ, and they give Christianity the appearance of being one until you look more closely at the divisions coming between the children of God. The same walls go up as we love one another. There is safety in walls that creates a boundaries because boundaries bring comfort. Breaking down boundaries makes everyone nervous. Unfortunately, that is one belief that does unite Christians.

When the walls come down, I get a glimpse of the love God so desires for His children. The problem is that when those walls come down, my vulnerability is exposed. I can’t let others know me at my deepest level because they may not like me. I can’t love Christ with abandon because people will think I’m nuts. That’s exactly what would change this world if given the chance. If Christians loved one another and God as Christ, the world would certainly think we were nuts, and that’s a lot better than what they think of us now!

If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” If we let Him has His way with us, the same thing will happen, and I don’t mean a hostile takeover as some envision. He will take away our place and our nation and leave us forever changed. Change is the problem, and being one scares us to death. When I look to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit and see how they are one, I want what they have. It’s what the high priests knew would happen. We can’t let everyone get what this guy is giving out. It will ruin our way of life and destroy us. Jesus does just that, and it’s a wonderful thing. Revival comes when those glass walls are shattered, and we are willing to let Christ “gather into one the children of God.” That was His agenda then, and it’s still His agenda now.

Crusade or Revival?

The Crusades were the darkest days of Christianity. There is nothing noble about forcing people to believe as you believe. There is nothing gallant about galloping around the globe in concerted effort to promote your agenda or eliminate everyone else’s. I am guilty of being mesmerized by knights in shining armor and tales of princesses being recused by them. I’ve had my share of knights and knaves on this journey, but I repent my fascination with that time period. There is nothing romantic or wonderful about it. There is no body count for how many died in those senseless holy wars, and there is no count of the tears that fell from heaven as countless men, women, and children were slaughtered in God’s name.

The difference between a crusade and a revival is that one comes from the efforts of groups on the outside and one comes from a renewal within an individual. Spring is a beautiful example of such a renewal. I can go out armed with shovels and fertilizer and force plants to either bloom or die, but that stops the process of breaking through the cold earth on their own and results in a short-lived, painful imitation of true renewal. 

Crusades  thrived on an “us/they” mentality. Revival involves a “me/God” realization. There is a world of difference between the two. God can have a crusade if He so desires, and Jesus could have performed the most amazing trick ever by pulling His hands away from those hate-filled nails on the far left and far right, bringing havoc down upon this world in a way that would have left us believing in a different sort of Savior. Maybe He would even have a shining knight’s suit of armor. We would still be quaking and doing whatever He said for us to do. He chose to die. He chose to love. He chose to forgive. He chose to extend mercy and grace. It’s what we must also choose to do. It’s much easier to wield a sword in a safe suit of armor, but God knows better than anyone that force doesn’t work when it comes to love.

Revival comes from God, and it comes one person at a time. It’s the feeling of seeing how the love of God is working in the life of another and wanting the same thing. It’s coming to the realization that it is God in that person that makes a difference and letting God come to me in the same way. I have a dear friend who loves God more than anyone I know. When I first heard him speak of God, I knew I wanted what he had. I have it now, but I learned that the process of getting it involves more than simple imitation. More people die in a revival than in a crusade because everyone who experiences revival dies. You cannot be revived if you are alive and kicking on your own terms. Surrender is necessary for revival, and that means going in a new direction. There is nothing more difficult than leaving the known and stepping into the unknown. It takes great faith and personal sacrifice, but the resulting peace truly is beyond our understanding.

Not everyone involved in those hate-filled Crusades died, but Christ’s love was trampled into the ground where the blood of those who did die flowed. Holy wars trample upon God’s heart and bring the very thing He hates the most, division. I pray we learned our lessons from those first disastrous attempts at forcing religion down the hearts of others. I look around today and see the anger and contempt that comes from mixing politics and religion, and it breaks my heart. I know it breaks God’s too. In a true revival, there is no agenda. There is only love. In a crusade, there is no love. There is only an agenda.