Summary: Jesus prays for our unity as Christians so we can be a witness to the world that he is real.
Many of us know the story after Joshua, things went well for a while. They kept their promise, they were devoted to following God and not worship other gods of the land, but it didnï¿½t take long. After only one generation they went back to their evil ways. They lost sight of the promise they made to God. Once they lost sight of the Lord God who had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land. Instead they began following the gods of the land they had occupied, they had internal tribal squabbles, . How quickly people forget the Lord and what he has done for them, forget their commitments they made to him, and begin walking their own path of personal self-fulfillment and pleasure rather than follow God’s purpose and plan for their life.
Fast forward about 1400 years to the day before the new Joshua, Jesua, or Jesus as we know him would deliver people from slavery, and receive an inheritance into the Promised Land. Only the slavery he was delivering people from wasn’t slavery to other people, but to sin and death. And the Promised Land wasn’t an earthly location but a heavenly one which we become a part of here, now on earth, the kingdom of God.
Jesus prayed what is known as the priestly prayer, knowing what would happen in the future, prays first for his disciples, and then for all Christian believers:
John 17:20 "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. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Notice there are three things Jesus prayed for us, 1) the first is for unity or oneness, that we as Christians would be one, just as the Father was in the Son and the Son in the Father. Let me ask you this, how close is the relationship Jesus had with the Father? According to our Christian beliefs, we believe God is one God but is triune; Father, Son, Holy Spirit, one God, three persons in perfect loving relationship with each other [statue]. Jesus’ radical prayer was that He wanted us to be in such loving relationship with each other, that it reflected the loving relationship God the Father has with God the Son. Notice that prayer wasn’t just to the persons at Epsilon UMC or Emmanuel Evangelical be one (although that is a good place to start), he says "that all of them may be one," all Christians. The Bible says there is only one church, one body, NIV Romans 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
NIV 1 Corinthians 12:13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-- and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
God wants all of his children to love each other no matter which camp we are from.
As Christians do we focus on the common bond we have in Jesus Christ, or do we focus first on our differences ? When Christians come together, do we seek to find our difference or commonality of purpose to work together? Do you dunk or sprinkle? Do you baptize infants or not? Are you pre-millennial or post-millennial? Is communion really the body and blood of Christ, is Christ really present, or is it just a symbol? I realize that unity does not mean uniformity, we are not clones of each other, we see things differently, denominations have their distinctive beliefs and emphases but we are one in the body of Christ working toward the same goal of seeing this world redeemed.
Although this is less the case anymore, sometimes I wonder if we focus on brand loyalty so much to the point we forget we are on the same team working together. How many Coke drinkers do we have out there? How many Pepsi drinkers? How many Michigan State fans? How many Michigan fans? Classic rivalries. For some reason our competitive nature seems to bring out the worst in us when it comes to rivalries, and we sometimes bring it into the church. Growing up I was a Methodist living in Jenison/Hudsonville area. I donï¿½t know if you are familiar with the Grand Rapids area, but there are a lot of CRCï¿½s there, and I remember feeling like a second class citizen sometimes because I was Methodist. Some of the folks at our church know I am on a church planting group, and I have heard stories of how our church planting pastors have receive complaints from nearby pastors within our denomination because this new church is on their turf. Iï¿½m sorry, arenï¿½t we on the same team working together, fighting the same battle, to make disciples of Jesus Christ.