The fabric of American society was left in tatters in the fall of 1918, eroding our innocence and trust in one another. The cause was a very old disease that came each year–influenza. It started with the soldier fighting the Great War, but it soon attacked the citizen on the street. A virus that was generally mild, like a bad cold, was mutating into a monster. Coffin makers struggled to keep up with the need. Store merchants could not keep their shops open as clerk after clerk fell ill, some needing permanent replacements. Murder and suicide rates went up with the terror felt by the most upstanding citizen crumbling at the thought of waiting to see who would become ill next. Soldiers blamed the Germans for spreading the disease. Preachers blamed sin. Your fellow citizen was your enemy simply because they breathed near you. When it finally began to subside, it left behind orphans, widows, neighborhood children with no playmates, and classrooms with missing teachers. The 1918 influenza pandemic killed 675,000 Americans, more than died in all the wars of the 20th century!
In 2018, we are much less likely to see influenza as a force turning us into enemies of one another, but there are still real threats in society… Divisiveness is one whose prevalence is felt daily. There are so many issues that stand to bring division, separating Christians from unbelievers, children from parents, and political parties from working together for the nation’s benefit. But unity is very important to our Savior, so important that He prayed to His Father that it may be found among His people:
My prayer for all of them is that they will be of one heart and mind, just as you and I are, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.
“I have given them the glory you gave me—the glorious unity of being one, as we are— I in them and you in me, all being perfected into one—so that the world will know you sent me and will understand that you love them as much as you love me. John 17: 21-23
Unity shows the world that they are loved by God through the love shown by His followers. Unity will present challenges for the most determined in today’s society, but it will help us to remember that Jesus calls it a glorious thing, and it begins with us!