One day, Pastor Ben Cachiaras’ daughter came home from high school excited because she had seen her first fight in school. Two girls started pulling hair, slamming each other into lockers, and a large crowd gathered to watch.
Finally a teacher came by, pulled the girls apart and said, “Knock it off.” The daughter said, “The funny thing was, they are both on the same sports team; they are supposed to be friends.”
Cachiaras gave the homily for the morning devotional service at 9:15 a.m. EDT Wednesday, Aug. 26, on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform. His sermon title was “Separating the Church and Hate: Strive for UNITY.” The scripture text was Ephesians 4:1-6 —
“I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
“Sometimes I think Jesus wants to grab us and say, ‘Knock it off,’ because Christians are acting like the kids in the school hallway,” Cachiaras said.
He cited an article in Christianity Today, whose author believed that President Donald Trump should be removed from office. There were many who agreed with the author, but there were others who thought Trump’s policies were good for the nation.
The debate only heightened the tension in the room. “There are good Christians on both sides, but would you want to go to a family reunion where there is an ongoing fight?” Cachiaras asked.
Paul, in writing to the Ephesians, begged them to live a life worthy of their calling in Jesus Christ. Paul asked them to make every effort to live in unity through the Spirit of peace. He asked the Ephesians to be one, saying, “you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”
Cachiaras told the virtual congregation, “Unity is a big thing in the Bible. We tend to confuse unity with uniformity and conformity. We can have unity and still have diversity. In fact, without diversity we have sameness — which is the same as conformity.”
He continued, “There is an old theological saying: ‘In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things love.’”
There are some things that are of the essence. For Christians, the only essential is to gather around the person of Jesus Christ.
Non-essentials are not unimportant, but they are not essential. “Political and theological differences are in this category. Our goal is not to agree on every issue, but to be one in Christ who binds us together in love,” Cachiaras said.
He reiterated a point he made in his Tuesday, Aug. 25, sermon that there are many bright, Bible-reading followers of Jesus who have different perspectives on the matters of the world.
Cachiaras said, “I was talking with a pastor friend and we had a different perspective on an issue. He finally said, ‘Ben, who’s right?’ I said when we go to heaven, we will find out. Actually, who is right is not the right question. The question is which category does it belong — essential or non-essential?”
The battle is not with other Christains or even non-believers, Cachiaras told the congregation. “The battle will be won when we are one.”
Jesus brought Simon the Zealot, who wanted to destroy Rome by violence, and Matthew the Tax Collector, who collaborated with Rome, into his group of 12 disciples. “It was like putting a Biden supporter and a MAGA hat-wearer together and saying, ‘You are going to ride together and room together,’” Cachiaras said.
He continued, “Jesus is what holds us together, not politics. Remember, if God agrees with everything in your politics, then you have made God in your image.”
Since you have been brought together by Jesus, he told the congregation, “you are now one, so act like it.”
Cachiaras likened the political situation to the trenches in World War I. The soldiers would occasionally throw grenades or gas over the lines. They stayed for months, and if they stuck their heads up, their heads could get blown off.
“We live in a time like that, writing off different points of view, listening only to media we agree with. Jesus prayed that we would be one, and Paul urged the Ephesians to strive for unity. What can you do to create greater unity for Christians? What can you do to help?” he concluded.
The Rev. J. Paul Womack, a retired United Methodist minister and co-host of the United Methodist House in Chautauqua, presided at the service from the Hall of Christ. Chautauqua interim organist Joshua Stafford played “Adagio (Concerto in A Minor),” by Bach/Vivaldi, for the organ prelude on the Tallman Tracker Organ. The hymn was “In Christ There is No East or West,” sung by guest artist Amanda Lynn Bottoms. Stafford played “Largo e spiccato (Concerto in D Minor),” by Bach/Vivaldi, for the anthem. The organ postlude, played by Stafford, was “Allegro (Concerto in D Minor),” by Bach/Vivaldi. This week’s services are sponsored by the Alison and Craig Marthinsen Endowment for the Department of Religion and the Daney-Holden Memorial Chaplaincy.