Walter Isaacson writes that on July 2, 1776 in Philadelphia, PA, at the signing of the parchment copy of the Declaration of Independence, John Hancock declared to his fellow delegates to the Continental Congress, “There must be no pulling different ways. We must all hang together.” Isaacson adds that according to early American historian John Sparks, Benjamin Franklin replied to Hancock, “Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” (Benjamin Franklin: an American Life, p 313). Later in the book Isaacson describes the complex mix of disdain and grudging admiration Franklin and fellow-patriot John Adams had for one another. The two served together in Paris beginning in April, 1778 as American ministers to the French government in trying to convince France to become an ally of the United States in the Revolutionary War. Adams, at 42, was thirty years younger than the elder statesman Franklin. Isaacson spends the better part of four pages describing the striking differences between the two men. Both were very smart, but had different personalities, different moral views, different ways of relating to others, and different approaches to the work they were in France to do. The differences caused conflicting emotions in each of these two powerful, ambitious men toward each other. Yet, Isaacson writes, “Despite their personal friction, Adams and Franklin were bound together by their shared patriotism and their ardor for America’s independence” (p 351).
Think about that – two very different men, on a mission for their country, men whose contrasting personalities could easily have derailed their mission to France. Yet they were “bound together by their shared patriotism and their ardor for America’s independence.” There is tremendous unifying power in shared values or goals. Franklin and Adams loved the same country and the same cause, and that shared love bound them together in a way that was stronger than any differences that worked to divide them.
Christians should learn a lesson from these two men. Disciples of Jesus are repeatedly called in the New Testament to get along with each other in one body (Romans 12:3ff * 1 Cor.12:12ff, etc.). The apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:1-6 continue to challenge – “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one e Spirit, just as you we re called in 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 you all.” As surely as our physical bodies have diverse members that perform a multitude of different functions, so, too, the church / body of Christ is comprised of many very different members. To quote Paul again in 1 Corinthians 12:14, “For in fact the body is nor one member but many.” He lists feet, hands, eyes, ears, hearing and smelling! The body, thank God, is not one big eyeball, or nose, or ear! In our human bodies, these members are all dependent on one Head, bound together and attached to each other, differences and all, in one body covered by skin. So it is, in the words of a Scripture similar to Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul declares in Colossians 3:14 – “But above all these things” (that is, tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiving one another) “put on love, which is the bond of perfection.” My friend, if you love Christ, His gospel, and His church, and if I love Christ, His gospel, and His church, we are intrinsically bound together. The common love that binds us to the Lord should be an unbreakable bond binding us to each other. Shouldn’t it?