PRAYING FOR UNITY
Passage: John 17:22-23
[Jesus prayed] “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. 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.”
It wasn’t easy to organize, but one of my most satisfying memories of serving Jesus in Iowa was gathering together people from across the state to pray and worship together in unity. Have you ever experienced unity between groups of people who don’t naturally come together? The gathering occurred because God prompted us to dream about unity across the entire state. Even though everyone had full schedules, we stopped our normal activities for one day to travel and seek God together. There were relational bridges built that day that continue to be strong. The event became an annual tradition because on those days of unity we tasted the sweetness of true fellowship.
Unity flourishes when there is a foundation of grace and truth. Jesus’ longest prayer in the Bible is found in John chapter 17. The emphasis of our Savior’s prayer is the topic of unity. Here are a few clear principles that emerge from this chapter:
1) Jesus prays passionately for our unity. As you read Jesus’ prayer in John chapter 17, notice how many times that Jesus highlights and pleads for oneness amongst His followers.
2) The standard for unity is found in the relationships within the Trinity. There is one God as three divine persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Reading John chapters 14-16 helps us discover the love, submission, shared purpose, obedience, and humility that are all essential parts of true unity and are completed in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3) We have a responsibility to maintain a unity that honors God. Unity is not just a good idea; it's something that God wants us to make every effort to keep. Listen to God’s heart on this topic of unity and imitate Him.
Have you ever thought about how and why unity breaks down? Have you ever been disappointed as your hopes for unity are crushed? There are many pitfalls on the road to achieving a healthy unity. With God's help we need to be able to rise above some of the common challenges that hinder our progress.
One of the major stumbling blocks is pride. Pride has a way of sneaking into your heart, home and church. But once it takes hold, it's hardly subtle. Proverbs 13:10 says, "Pride only breeds quarrels". Proverbs 11:2 instructs, "When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom". You won't achieve a level of unity that surpasses your level of humility. With that in mind, repentance usually precedes unity because there is a need to drop selfish pride.
Another significant obstacle to unity is a critical spirit (people who have a bent towards perfectionism need to be careful here). A spouse can feel the brunt of constant correcting. It grieves me when I hear a Christian mocking the style of another church just because it's different or is not their personal preference. Sometimes it sounds like churches are even competing against each other. This is not from God. When churchgoers criticize music styles, volumes, lights, instruments, technology, songs and hymns, body posture in worship, and so on, a church isn't second rate because of its choices in those areas. Scripture brings clarity regarding major Christian doctrinal statements, and unity regarding the essentials is important. But where the Bible gives freedom, we need to be careful not to judge or to make comments that tear down other people and ministries with reckless words.
Unforgiveness destroys unity. We can't be bitter and united at the same time. If we have been hurt, healing is often a process that begins by forgiving first. But the Bible says that forgiveness needs to be immediate and complete. Because Jesus paid the price for all of our sins, we need to fully forgive anyone who has wronged us (Matthew 18:21-35). We need to let go of grudges and all attempts at revenge. Don't give the enemy a foothold in your life, but choose to forgive even if someone doesn't deserve it. Get rid of bitterness for Jesus' glory and our own spiritual, mental, and physical health.
1) How would you explain the unity that Jesus describes?
2) Can you initiate peace in any of your relationships through forgiveness?
3) What do you learn about unity from relationships within the Trinity?
Philemon 1:1-25. You might have the opportunity to restore someone.
Amos 3:3. God desires that we walk together in a common purpose.
Genesis 50:18-21. Forgiveness is a vital step toward unity.
Daniel 3:1-30. Find people who will agree with you in prayer and persevere.
Father God, thank You for helping us to see what hinders unity. It’s not always natural for us to choose unity. Forgive us for how we treat each other. People will see You in us when we really love each other. Let us step up to this challenge and be intentional about building bridges of unity and grace. May it start with us. I pray this in Your great name, Jesus. Amen.
For more from Pastor Jesse Bradley and Activate Media Ministries, visit www.activatelife.org