I guess most people would say that we’ve come a long way in the past 2000+ years. We’re far better educated. We’re much more sophisticated. We know a whole lot more about the world we live in, the universe around us, the microscopic world within. We have the benefit of 2000+ years of thinking, of philosophy, of scientific investigation and exploration. Our ability to access information is almost beyond belief. Yet in many ways we’re no better off now than the people who lived in the first century. We still have the same sorts of social issues. We still fight the same temptations. Our human nature is no different now to how it was back then.
On the night he was betrayed Jesus prayed an important prayer for you as individuals, for us together, and for the worldwide body of believers. He prayed for future believers, praying ‘that all of them [all of us] may be one’.
Jesus prayed: “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” (John 17:21) God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are all part of the Godhead, but there is variety within their unity. The prayer of Jesus is not for uniformity; but His prayer is for unity - and unity for a specific purpose.
Jesus prayed: “[Father] …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” (John17:22). Jesus prayed for complete unity for us and for the whole Church.
Jesus didn’t pray that all of what makes us individuals be tossed away We’re not all going to have Scottish brogues, we don’t all look the same, we’re not all going to enjoy organ music, and we’re not all going to enjoy listening to drums in Church because we’re different; but Jesus most certainly prayed for “complete unity” (John 17:23); and he prayed for complete unity in order that the world will see that God sent Jesus. Our unity with each other and with the whole Church is to reflect and personify the unity between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit – so that unbelievers will see and believe that God sent Jesus.
We are called to be the personification of Jesus’ prayer for unity. I believe that when unity breaks down amongst believers in churches, and across towns and cities, we are neither listening nor experiencing the prayer of Jesus being answered. Human frailty, human independence and sin is the barrier and the cause of the fractures we see – so we can all be part of the prayer of Jesus being answered – by joining in with his prayer, and by being part of the answer.
There will always be differences in the way people see the world, in what we see as important, in where we place our emphasis. But in the end what matters is how we respond to Jesus Christ and to the message of salvation through his death and resurrection. Now that doesn’t mean that we won’t have to worry about issues of lifestyle, of morality, of integrity, of mutual love and care. Of course all those things are important. But there’s only one thing that should define our allegiance, only one person who deserves our loyalty and that’s Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection.
When all are truly in unity with Christ we can experience unity in our families, communities, church family, nation and the world. Without our complete unity with Christ, we cannot experience unity in any aspect of our lives.
In His Service,
Deacon Sallie Rathbone