Houston Graduate School of Theology

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If only . .

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by Dr. Chuck Pitts, Adjunct Professor in Old Testament, Houston Graduate School of Theology; Social Studies Teacher, Sam Houston High School I remember a song that we sang back in the 1970s. It went like this:

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

We are one in the Spirit, we are one in the Lord

And we pray that our unity will one day be restored

And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love

Yeah, they'll know we are Christians by our love.

The song was written as a hymn by Catholic priest, Peter Scholtes (©1966, F.E.L. Publications, assigned to The Lorenz Corp., 1991). Scholtes was a parish priest on the south side of Chicago. He wrote the song for a series of ecumenical, interracial events. Not too surprisingly, he could not find any hymns for the events in the 1960s, so he wrote his own (https://hymnary.org/text/we_are_one_in_the_spirit). The rest is history. I grew up singing this song in youth groups and camps. It has been covered by many Christian artists through the years.

The song was quaint, perhaps even trite. Those were simpler times, I suppose. I think that Christians believed that believers in Jesus Christ should live together in peace, love, and unity. Still, deep down inside, I wish that we still thought so simply. “We are one,” and “They’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

Social media entries suggest that this type of unity is far from us—maybe impossible. The problem is not the disagreements in theology. It is not the ecclesiastical debates. The problem is not even the discussions about politics. All of these have their place in civil discourse, and Christians are civil beings as much as anyone else. The problem is the verbal abuse. The pain in my soul is from the name-calling. The difficulty is the endless use of insults. These are my brothers and sisters calling each other horrible names and insulting each other in a degrading and humiliating manner. Oh, Lord Jesus, how I wish that I was guiltless in this sin!

I am glad that we, as followers of Jesus, have the Bible to guide our thoughts, words, and actions. If only we Christians had direct biblical teachings to love one another in a self-less, life-giving, and uplifting way! Oh wait, now that I think about it, we do! As my Episcopal friends would say, kyrie eleison—Lord have mercy!