Friday, March 30, 2012

The Importance of Unity: Part One - Unity Amongst Believers

John 17:20-26
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21  that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22  The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23  I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25  O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26  I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

John 17 consists of Jesus' prayer for himself, his disciples, and all future believers.  It is Jesus' final prayer before he is arrested and later crucified.  In his prayer for future believers, Jesus asks the Father specifically for unity.  The first type of unity he prays for is amongst believers.  The second type is between the believer and the Father and Son.  When Jesus intercedes on behalf of future believers, he prays that believers will share the same type of unity that he has experienced with the Father. The purpose and result of this unity, given in verses 21 and 23, is that the world will believe that: 1. Jesus was truly sent from God and that 2. God loves them.  In verse 22, Jesus states that he has given believers the glory needed to accomplish this unity.

So, if unity amongst believers was one of Jesus' primary concerns before facing the cross, should it not be one of our priorities today?  However, settling discord and building oneness seems to be less than a precedence in many of our lives as well as in the lives of many churches.  If someone has a problem with their brother or sister in Christ, often times, they complain to another or avoid the issue rather than mending the relationship.  Or if someone has an issue with the body of believers, they simply find another one that suits them better.  It seems that there is more competition and conflict between and within the Church than unity. Yet, we are surprised when unbelievers want nothing to do with us.  Jesus stated that the result of unity would be that the world would know that he was sent from God and that God loves the world.  However, if there is no within the body of Christ, how will that message be delivered to the world?  Jesus' gift to us, according to verse 22, is that he has given us what is necessary to be one.  Yet, we often stray from that glory in order to seek our own. 

Jesus' work on the cross was the ultimate example of humility (Philippians 2).  It was this act of humility that allows us to be united with God.  I believe that it is Christ-like humility that allows us to be united with each other.  As we prepare for Easter this year, let us look at our own lives and ask ourselves how we are doing at being united with our fellow believers.  Our unity is a greater testimony to the world than we often realize.

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