What would be going through your mind if you knew that you were dying tomorrow? (I would want to make sure that I was ready to meet God and that the people closest to me knew how I felt about them.) On the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion He prayed. Matthew, Mark and Luke record His prayer in Gethsemane, but John tells us about another prayer before Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. He prayed for His disciples; then He said:
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.” (John 17.20–21)
In His final moments Jesus prayed that His followers would be one. Clearly, this was important to Him. (He mentioned it five times in His prayer.) Yet unity remains the elusive goal of the Church.
If we are to see a Jesus Movement, then it must be accompanied by unity in the body of Christ. Each member can no longer be going in his or her own direction, independent of the others. Rather, there must be the coordinated effort of all the parts made whole.
Consider how many parts of the human body must work together in order for an Olympic athlete to win the gold medal. How can an army win a war unless its divisions serve a common battle plan under a single commander-in-chief? How can the Church expect to impact the world if we hold on to our independence more than the will of Christ?
What prevents us from really experiencing this unity? The problem is that we have not learned what it means to be one in the Father and the Son. As long as we define unity as submitting to an earthly leader (whether pastor, bishop or pope) or agreeing perfectly on all doctrinal matters, we will never experience the unity for which Christ prayed. That does not mean that we sacrifice truth on the altar of peace-at-any-price. But it does mean that our unity must be spiritual. It is the result of the Father being in the Son and the Son being in us (vs. 23). We are unified to the degree that we each personally submit to God and allow His Spirit to reign in us. That is why we cannot create unity; we can only keep it.
“Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4.3)
According to Christ’s prayer, if we are one in God, then the world will know that the Father has sent His Son, and has loved us as He has loved Him (vs. 23). If there is one thing the world needs today, it is to know the love of God.
While unity in the Church often seems unattainable, our hope lies in the glory that Christ received.
“The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.” (John 17.22)
Think of it: Jesus places such a high priority on our unity that He is willing to give away some of His glory in order for us to have it! When we drop our petty differences and receive the glory of Christ to become one, then the Holy Spirit can move unhindered throughout the entire Church, inspiring, using and empowering her gifts for the kingdom…and the world will marvel.
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