One in the Spirit:
The Active Presence of the Holy Spirit, Week 7

by Adam White
It may be hard to admit, but I have not always paid the closest of attention to the lyrics and meanings behind the hymns and songs that are sung in church. However, in the last year discovering their meaning has been a practice I have attempted to grow as a form of prayer. Regarding our missional relationship with God’s Spirit, I don’t think there is a song that better captures that dynamic than the hymn “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” [1]

It has everything! Within the hymn text we find the unity of our identity within the Spirit and a prayer that our worldly divisions might be restored...

We are one in the Spirit
We are one in the Lord
And we pray that all unity
May one day be restored

The hymn also invokes the intention to actively walk with each other as a way to share God’s revelation in the world...

We will walk with each other
We will walk hand in hand
And together we'll spread the news
That God is in our land

Then the hymn brings the important focus of working with each other, rather than for one another, as we humbly seek to discern what service to God really means…

We will work with each other
We will work side by side
And we'll guard human dignity
And save human pride

And then the hymn wraps up with the giving of praise to each person of the Trinity…

All praise to the Father
From whom all things come
And all praise to Christ Jesus
[God’s] only Son
And all praise to
The Spirit who makes us one

These rich words do not only exist in the form of a song we can sing, but are able to transcend the pages of our hymnbooks and screens to invite us to truly love one another each day with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This is what it means to missionally serve with each other as fellow sisters and brothers who are led by God’s Spirit.

But loving in this way is not possible without the indwelling, empowering Holy Spirit. She must keep pointing us to Jesus, keep filling us with her faith that love wins. She must gift us, call forth from us more courage, integrity, and perseverance than we knew we had. She must heal us of our bigotry, lead us into all truth, turn our failures and mistakes into wisdom. None of us can love as Jesus loves unless we are filled with the Holy Spirit. And this requires a day by day opening of ourselves to the love of God. It means we have to be born again, born of the Spirit. It means we have to live in a contemplative stance. To be a contemplative is to show up, pay attention, cooperate with God, and release the outcome. It is an orientation that is both inward and outward, one that is both cause and result of an increasing integration and wholeness within. [2]

And they'll know we are Christians
By our love by our love
Yes they'll know we are Christians
By our love.

Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:

  • What hymns, songs, or other images speak to you about the empowerment and work of the Holy Spirit?

  • Whom might God’s Spirit be leading you to walk and work side by side in love with this week?

[1] Peter Scholtes, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love,” in, The Faith We Sing, The United Methodist Church, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2001), #2223.
[2] Slightly adapted from Elaine Heath & Larry Duggins, Missional. Monastic. Mainline. (2014)