The HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” is a case study in unity. In 1942, The U.S. Army assembled a volunteer parachute regiment to jump behind enemy lines. Within this unit was a company of men who found themselves at the forefront of the war in Europe. They parachuted into Normandy on D-Day, fought for the liberation of Holland, held the frontline in the Battle of the Bulge, and captured Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest. This company sustained one of the highest casualty rates of the war. These were the men of Easy Company – 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.
In a letter written to his commander long after the war had ended, Mike Riney, a member of Easy Company, wrote: “I cherish the memories of a question my grandson asked me the other day, when he said ‘grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ Grandpa said ‘no, but I served in the company of heroes.’” Trust was essential for those serving together. Whatever the circumstances among those within their unit, whatever their disagreements or misunderstandings, they fought as one against unspeakable odds with a unified front. This unity was typified by teamwork – the ability to realize that no one person was a hero and that the goals were achieved as a team.
Maybe you have felt a taste of that type of unity. Maybe it was as part of a team, facing a larger, stronger opponent. Maybe it was a business goal achieved only with time and the commitment of co-workers. Perhaps it came during a particularly challenging time in your marriage, facing financial or family difficulties when you and your spouse pulled together and made it work. That type of unity, the kind where you know you can count someone to weather the storm with you, is something that is hard to describe – but we know it when we feel it.
We Stand Alone Together
Easy Company was formed in July, 1942 at Camp Toccoa, Georgia. Part of the extreme training of the time was to run up mount Currahee every morning. The name Currahee is an Indian name meaning “We stand alone together.” The run was one of the more difficult dynamics of the training, yet many soldiers would run it together at night on their own time to better prepare. This additional effort only strengthened the bond between the men.
How do we as Christians even begin to gain this type of unity? What experiences or training can push us to approach life with the attitude that “we stand alone together,” and is that even a legitimate thought?
One of the most beautiful passages on unity comes in Jesus’ prayer the night before his murder. Consider His words from John 17:14-23 (NIV):
“I have given them (Jesus’ disciples) your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world anymore than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. 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. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (all emphasis mine)
Jesus makes it very clear to all of us who read his words that we are not of the world. The disciples were not, He was not, and we are not to be. We stand alone. He is also very clear that he wants us to be unified – in fact, he prays for complete unity. A unity so evident, that the world gets the message that Jesus loves us and he lives in us; a unity so complete that even though we stand alone, “we stand alone together.”
A unity that is anything but complete?
Does the Christian community of faith have a unity that will hold-up under battle conditions? Or do we forget that the battle rages outside the walls of the church and deconstruct our unity with skirmishes inside?
Many of us with children have witnessed more than the typical disagreement. In fact, there are times when the sibling dialogue can get fairly heated. It is at that point that the parents come in with referee shirts and explain that as siblings they need to care for one another – even take-up for one another. How agonizing is it as a parent to witness children who do not look out for each other, and even maliciously create tension between each other? Is it the same feeling God has with us when we do the very same? How must God feel when we launch our attacks that do anything but build toward Jesus’ prayer for a complete unity? What must the father feel as he watches Christians who can read the prayer Jesus prayed the last night of his life; a prayer prayed with tears, a prayer prayed even for those who had not yet lived, and go into mutiny against each other?
Jesus prayed it because He knows we can get there. The unity can be achieved, but it is a unity that has to transcend our internal skirmishes. Our own commander-in-chief pointed out that “…whoever is not against us is for us.” (Mark 9:40). Jesus made this point as the disciples began to launch an attack at someone who they felt was not authorized to cast out demons in the name of Jesus. Maybe we would do good to remember the mindset of Jesus when it comes to doing battle. His focus was on fighting sin and saving the person.
A dream or an answered prayer?
I have had a dream that has been perpetuating itself for several years now. It is a dream that in my lifetime, I will be able to taste just a drop of the prayer of Jesus – to taste just a bit of “complete unity.” Imagine – those who call themselves religious coming to agreement on at least one thing, the fact that Jesus is the ultimate unifying force. He is the one constant on which we must agree. He is the only chance for redemption. Is that so much a dream, or will it be the answer to a 2000-year-old prayer?
One thing is certain…when those who call themselves religious come to just that much agreement, the world will be changed. The world will hear of Jesus more loudly than ever before. The battle will take a significant turn, and we will truly begin to stand alone….together.
Written by Mark Hodges. Mark, a PV Elder, is married to Tamara, and they have two children. If you find yourself on a flight in front of Mark, don’t recline.
‹ Back to Blog