My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20–23)Jesus prayed that we would be one or, in other words, united. Unity, or being one, is actually a big topic in the New Testament. Jesus prayed for it three times; the apostle Paul spoke about it often.
For years I have met people who still considered themselves spiritual, still believed in something, but were either no longer attending a worship service or Catholic mass or were not involved with other people on the basis of their faith.
The largest group of Christians in the United States is Roman Catholic. According to the Pew Research Center, approximately 31 percent of Americans, or one in three, were raised as Roman Catholic. However, Pew Research also found that one third of all people raised Roman Catholic no longer consider themselves Catholic,i meaning that approximately 10 percent of all Americans are former Catholics, many of them still wandering without finding another church home or returning to the Catholic Church.
This is unfortunate and a failure of the institution part of the church. All too often we have embraced our denominations, our cultures, and our traditions and mistakenly thought these were the basis of our faith. Church culture, traditions and church leaders including the Apostles are imperfect and a poor substitute for true faith.
The apostle Peter, of course, is an easy target if we are looking for an apostle who seemed imperfect. People who are quick to judge Peter are often far from perfect themselves. Peter was a great leader, but he was rash, quick to judge, and too confident in his flesh. Peter denied Christ three times; however, Christ restored him.
A few years later, the apostle Paul met the apostle Peter in Antioch and had to call him a hypocrite:
When Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. (Gal. 2:11–13)Paul was not trying to cause a division in the church. Note that Paul didn’t talk about Cephas (Peter) behind his back but “opposed him to his face.” Paul directed his discipline not only at Peter but also to those who continued to think of the world as consisting of two contrasting groups: Jews or Gentiles. This Jewish thinking was similar to the Greek thinking of “Greek or Barbarian” or even today’s “Catholic or Protestant.”
It's time we get beyond our divisions and embrace the true wonder of our faith.
From an excerpt from the book, "Roaming Catholics: ending the wandering to embrace the wonder" available on Amazon and your local Christian Bookstore