“My prayer is not for them alone. 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. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—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." John 17:20-23
The quality or state of not being multiple; a condition of harmony
Right about now we are likely thinking that complete unity is a total impossibility, right? It seems like our world could not be more divided. Man/Woman, Young/Old, Black/White, Democrat/Republican, Mask/Unmask . . . you name it and we can find something to be divided on and angry about! What is most distressing to me is that Christ-followers seem to be just as divided and angry as everyone else in the world! This weekend I was reminded that Jesus did not come to take sides, He came to take over! And no one here on earth sees the complete picture.
Unity in the church is unbelievably hard hit right now. Why is that? Let's stop and think about it. GOD IS THE EPITOME OF UNITY! Three very different persons in One Being—it doesn't get more unified than that! Relational Unity is part of His nature.
Listen: there is an enemy of God who wants to steal, kill, and destroy everything in his path. Anything that resembles God is hated by him and is on his list of destruction. Since unity is who God IS, Satan really hates it. Anytime people choose to live or work together in unity, Satan is out to disrupt and destroy it. Think about it. That's why we see relationships damaged in marriages, families, friendships, neighborhoods, churches, organizations, cities, and countries.
Followers of Christ are called to be distinctly different from the rest of the world. God uniquely designed each of us with different gifts, strengths, passions, values, and life experiences. He did it on purpose! After all, unity is not "sameness." Rather, unity is the choice to live and work together in spite of differences. There is beauty and power in a group of very different people choosing to love each other and work together, using those differences to become stronger and more effective.
And Jesus' prayer in John 17 was specifically for each of us, as uniquely different as we are. He asked His Father to make us ONE, just as He and His Father are ONE—IN COMPLETE UNITY. In John 15 he also said,"My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you."
Jesus did not ask the Father to make us one just so we could be "a happy little church huddle." Why did He pray that? He wants us in complete unity so that the WORLD will be impacted—so that others would see a distinct difference in those who followed Him. When people look at a Christ- follower they should see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Right now social media is a place where emotions are rising and falling just as fast as words are typed! I see Anger, Accusation, Fear, Strife, and Hate [All tactics of the enemy] being thrown back and forth through words on the screen.
I'm realizing that I must be careful not to "take offense" which is so easy to do these days! Hurt is a seed which can send down a strong root of Bitterness if I do not guard my heart. It will harm and sometimes sever relationships—and can even make you physically sick. When your soul is in "dis-ease" [not at peace] it leads to disease. Any disagreement is definitely not worth weakening relationships or making yourself sick!
The Lord is reminding me that our response as Christ-followers must be different than the world's. If we choose to engage in conversation in person or on the screen, our words must be gracious and kind, no matter what is hurled our way.
And when others see such a striking difference in our reactions and responses, they may question why. Why are they so different? That becomes our opportunity to share why we choose to live differently and follow Christ. And we can invite them to join us on our journey as we follow Him.
THIS IS OUR CHANCE, PEOPLE!
It's a big opportunity for the world to see that Christ-followers are different—and to pray for opportunities to share why.
Will we cease loving each other during this stressful season?
Will we turn and attack a brother or sister with our words, becoming an agent of the enemy?
C'mon Christ followers!
Though the power of the Holy Spirit, we can do better! Dialogue—yes! But let's guard our hearts and choose to respond in love. Let's be the church as Jesus prayed we would be.