Summary: This is a message encouraging believers to follow the wisdom found in the following: In essential things, unity. In non-essential things, liberty. In all things, charity.
Remember Pat Tillman? He’s the football player who turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army in May 2002 in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy. Tillman was killed in a firefight in Afghanistan. Sports pages all across America told his heroic story. What made things seem even more tragic was that the investigation results indicate that Tillman probably died as a result of “friendly fire.”
You know what that is, don’t you? Tillman was engaged in a firefight that took place in “very severe and constricted terrain with impaired light.” 10 to 12 enemies were firing on our U.S. forces. And during the confusion, Tillman was accidentally shot by one of our own soldiers. The military calls such incidents fratricide. Fratricide prevention is a real priority for our armed forces. We want to stop “friendly fire.”
Unfortunately, we see this kind of thing happening in marriages, in families, in businesses, in schools, and in churches all across America. You probably know someone who has been hurt – who has been wounded – by friendly fire. We followers of Christ take spiritual, emotional, verbal, and theological potshots at each other all the time. It needs to stop.
That’s why I’m writing about the defeat of friendly (and not-so-friendly) fire
Last year, my mom celebrated her 80th birthday. We had a surprise party for her- a family reunion in Orlando. It was a bittersweet time. Most everyone in the family was there. What made it bittersweet was that it was the first time my oldest brother had been to Florida to see my mom in many, many years.
It appears that he’s not been happy with some of the choices my mom has made – especially her decision to remarry. He doesn’t call her all that often. He hasn’t been to her home in Lake Wales in years. It’s hurt our family. And it’s breaking my mom’s heart.
This kind of thing happens way too often in the Christian community, too. Believers disagree with the choices other believers make and then pull away. They hurt the family and they break the heart of God.
God wants us to build a community of unity.
On the last night before Jesus went to the cross, just a few hours before His arrest, Jesus prayed. That prayer is recorded for us in John 17.
Jesus is quickly nearing the time in His ministry when He will be arrested, condemned to die, and killed on a cross. And He knows what’s ahead. So when He prays, He isn’t praying lightly – not that He ever did. This prayer obviously contains things that are very close to the heart of Christ.
It’s a prayer in three sections. In verses 1-5, Jesus prays for Himself. In verses 6-19, He prays for His disciples, His immediate group of followers. Then in verses 20-26, He prays for all believers yet to come. That means that He’s praying for you and for me. It’s rich privilege to eavesdrop on the Son of God when He prays. Jesus sees all true believers becoming part of the church. He sees the diversity of temperaments, and backgrounds, and interests. What does He want for us and from us? He cries out to His Father that we all might be one.
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word 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. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.
John 17:20-22 (ESV)
Jesus prayed this prayer because He knew a lack of unity and togetherness would be a problem for His followers.
We all know the clichés.
“TEAM – Together Everyone Achieves More.”
“Together we stand; divided we fall.”
“One for all; all for one.”
But the clichés wear thin. We need more than just words to keep us together. As we explore this prayer from Jesus, I see at least…
I see five questions you can use to diagnose your commitment to community. As you do this, I want you to think about another follower of Jesus that you are not in sync with.
1. Do I bless the heart of Jesus?
Don’t miss this point. This is a prayer from the deepest place in the heart of Jesus. He knows that He’s going to die soon. So, He’s praying about what He’s most passionate about. This is a prayer!
I do not ask for these only…
John 17:20a (ESV)
He’s asking His Father. This is a prayer from the depths of His soul. This prayer for our unity is what’s on His heart.