Hebrews 10:33 – Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. (NIV)
Years ago, when I ministered in Scotland, I walked into the church halls one morning, only to discover that all of the windows had been broken. During the night, a local gang had come along, throwing bricks and stones through every pane. When I saw the destruction, I was devastated. I felt that God's holy house had been violated and that I had been remiss in not protecting it.
Deep within my heart, I knew what had caused the vandalism. The local Roman Catholic priest and I had become really good friends. We started to share that friendship amongst our church members and soon began a series of Bible studies, worship services, and community projects together.
But some people didn't like the new ecumenical spirit that grew between our churches. Harsh, bitter prejudices and historical, sectarian hatred festered in the hearts of some people. They couldn't accept this new wave of spiritual unity between the churches, so they sent their teenagers to wreck the windows at the Presbyterian Church where I served and then to vandalize some of the statues at the Roman Catholic Church.
Those acts of desecration only strengthened our resolve. Within a couple of weeks, the vandalism had been repaired, and an even greater unity developed among all of the churches in the town. We endured the hatred and rose above the bigotry. We stood side by side and pleasantly discovered that the Holy Spirit was working within us to present a united witness to the whole community.
Twenty years ago, those windows were smashed, but the ecumenical prayer services, Bible studies, and church-wide community events were never broken. They still continue to this day.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, sometimes our churches are beset by people who are ignorant of Your ways and intolerant of other denominations. They seek to destroy faith, hope, and love by using fear, hatred, and loathing as their weapons. Empower and equip us to persevere against bigotry and prejudice, vandalism and racism. Grant us unity to present the gospel fully to the communities we serve. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.