John 17: 20-26: On Jesus’ prayer list.
“20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— 23 I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory,the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” NIV
It is an incredible thought, is it not, that just before He died on the cross, Jesus prayed for all those who would come to believe through the preaching of the first disciples (20)? This includes you and me. The apostles ‘set the ball rolling’ in terms of announcing the good news; it eventually reached us, and we responded in repentance and faith.
You can’t read this prayer without seeing that, for Jesus, the unity of His followers was very important. It was on His prayer agenda for His first disciples (11), and it was very much on His heart for we believers living in later generations (21, 22 and 23). Jesus saw that the unity among His people should reflect the unity in the Godhead, and it is enabled by our relationship with the Godhead. It is an expression of God’s own love which is planted within us. We can love each other like the members of the Trinity when God sheds His love abroad in our hearts. Furthermore, this unity carries evangelistic clout. As we read in ‘The Message’, it gives ”the godless world evidence”. Church historians tell us how the ancient world was so impacted by the witness of the early church, it caused them to exclaim, ”See how these Christians love one another!”
Every Christian must surely take to heart the words of Jesus in this great prayer. If He cared so much for the unity of the church, how can we care less? Let’s join Him in this prayer for ”complete unity” (23), at the same time doing all we can to ”maintain the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). Work at mending fences and preparing broken bridges. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger and thereby give the devil a foothold (Ephesians 4:26, 27). Be an agent of reconciliation. And look beyond the borders of your own local church and denomination. Seek to have unified relationships with all who truly know and love Jesus. Go as far as you can, without compromising the truth. Some Christians are strong on love, but can be doctrinally woolly; others are strong on truth, but seem hard and even aggressive. We actually need to be strong on both, for finally there can only be real unity in the truth.
PRAYER: Lord, I need to ask your forgiveness for not caring enough about the unity of your church, and for not always living in a way that will promote peace and harmony. I repent, asking for mercy, and that you will make me a ”channel of your peace”.