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We should echo Jesus’ prayer for unity

‘My prayer is not for them alone (the apostles). I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” John 17:20-21
This prayer comes near the end of John’s account of the last supper, the Passover meal Jesus shares with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. Jesus began this important event by washing his disciples’ feet as a reminder of their responsibility to serve.
Jesus has reminded them that one will betray him, and Jesus will deny him, but he has also given them encouragement about a future home he will prepare for them.
He answers Thomas about where he is going with the declaration, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Then Jesus tells them God will send his Holy Spirit, another Counselor, to teach and remind the disciples of all Jesus taught.
Jesus also uses the vine and the branches of grapes to illustrate how connection with him will allow the production of spiritual fruit throughout the world till the end of time. After warnings that the world will hate the disciples just as the world hated them and further teaching about the work of the Holy Spirit, the disciples begin to realize the truth — Jesus is the Messiah, the one who came from God.
At that point Jesus prays, asking God to glorify him so that the Son can glorify the Father. He explains that God granted him authority over all the people so that he could give eternal life to his followers. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Jesus prays for the disciples, recalling that he has shared knowledge of the Father with them, and asking God to protect them by the power of God’s name. He asks God to protect them from the evil one and sanctify them by the truth.
It is at this point Jesus indicates that his prayer is not only for them, but for believers in all future time.
Jesus prayed before his apostles for you and me. And the central idea of his message is that we all may be one, just as the Father and Jesus are one.
Jesus’ prayer in the first century is just as important for believers today as it was for the apostles and those brought to belief on Pentecost.
In most communities, dozens of groups mark their building with a cross and profess to be followers of Christ. Yet these groups have no desire for unity. Even in local Churches of Christ, it is rare for the members to be totally unified. The history of most congregations is marked by a rift and division at some point.
In my childhood memories those splits usually occurred over Sunday school or the use of one cup. In the last 60 years divisions have occurred over elderships, worship, church location, ministries to underprivileged, preachers, song books, Bible translations, mission methods and many other trivial differences. And we can be sure God is not happy with the attitudes leading to those divisions.
The world has never needed Christ more than it does now. The natural disasters, the designs of evil men to destroy others, the loss of civility toward those we disagree with and the disposition of a world intent on evil make life uncomfortable for all.
How great would the influences be if all those who believe in Jesus would study Jesus’ prayers and make the goal for unity become the common commitment?
How powerful is the teaching of Jesus in establishing the basic principles for bringing glory to God the Father?
How destructive is it when believers have endless arguments about the nature of God and his kingdom? How much time do believers have to change the obvious disunity and present a unified front in winning unbelievers?
I don’t know the answer to most of those questions, but I know how the disciples turned the world upside down in the first 100 years after the death of Jesus as they went everywhere sharing the story of redemption to unbelievers.
I know also that if Jesus prayed for our unity that we all should be echoing that prayer and working to establish a unity to glorify God, our Father and the Father of Jesus.
CONTACT [email protected].

  • Feedback
    Amen! to your article about unity. Thankfully, I’m hearing this more and more. All I can do is get on the same page as Jesus, and let God use us to do the work of building unity among Jesus’ followers. Have you seen the “Transformation” videos?…a powerful documentary about what happens in communities where Christians are serious about fulfilling Jesus’ prayer.
    Don Cross
    North Central church family
    Bloomington, Indiana
    March, 3 2013

    Thank you, Bailey. Echoes of Reuel Lemmons,David Lipscomb, Barton Stone, and Paul of Tarsus who of course also echoed our Lord.
    Bruce Smith
    Lumbadzi Church of Christ
    Lilongwe, Lilongwe
    March, 1 2013

    Jesus promised to build a church and furnish it with love
    jut like the father,son, and holy spirit pictured as snow white turtle doves.
    I want them to teach & sing in perfect harmony
    I want to hold them in my arms & keep them company
    I would like to see all the church stand hand in hand
    And hear them proclaim peace throughout the land!
    todd e. padgett
    northwest/rosehill/chisholm trail
    lawton, oklahoma
    February, 28 2013

    I’ve read the books to Corinth.. always striving for unity but never arriving at that perfect agreement. May God help us to keep on striving, this makes us part of the chaste virgin that Paul speaks about.
    Blue Starr
    Claremore, Oklahoma
    February, 28 2013

    Wolves are in favor of unity between wolves and sheep. But what they have in mind is not good for the sheep!
    Those who added musical instruments to the worship around 1900 emphasized unity. They wanted to be accepted, unscriptural practices and all. They emphasized unity and divided the church.
    Those who worship with instruments now want us to ACCEPT them. They claim they want unity. But THEY CAUSE DIVISION.
    Their plea for unity is hypocritical. Their desire for unity is not great or they would be willing to put aside unscriptural worship for the sake of unity. Their goal is unity on their own terms, not unity in Christ.
    Unity that compromises truth is built on sand and will not stand.
    Roy Davison
    Roy Davison
    The Lord’s church that meets at Burcht, Belgium
    Alken, Limburg
    February, 28 2013

    A bickering bride of Christ is attractive to no one, especially a lost world. Thank you Dr. McBride for the reminder that our Lord prayed for unity, not uniformity.
    Bill Bell
    Tha Hills Church of Christ
    North Richland Hills, Texas
    February, 28 2013

Filed under: Insight

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