In the vision for my blog I made my readers a promise. That promise was to be real. This past week my soul grieved. In my church body, we are going through a trying time. Our numbers have been declining for the last twenty years or so. This conflict has led to heated debates on what direction we should take. The natural tendency when you are sick is to ignore all the signs. You just hope the illness goes away, or to try radical new treatments to save the dying organization. Both sides of this pendulum are colliding with tremendous force in my church body. And this week I got caught in the middle of it. I am not on either side. I just want to find a way to connect those far from Jesus to Jesus.
At fifty plus years old I have reached a point in my life where I have no taste for fighting anymore. God’s mission is too important. Those far from God are too important. As we look at Jesus’ High Priestly prayer, the next section deals with unity. Jesus prayed that the believers be united. So, today as I a write this, I have a heavy heart. I too wish we could stop fighting against each other and fight against our common opponent Satan and his army.
A Prayer for Unity.
“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. 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.” John 17:20-23
William Wallace, the leading character in the movie “Braveheart” chastised his fellow Scots for allowing minor issues, internal strife, and power struggles to stand in the way of their fight for independence from the English. “We have beaten the English, but they’re back because you won’t stand together.” I feel that is what is happening far too often in the church. The enemy, Satan, has been defeated. When Jesus Christ rose on Easter Sunday, the message was clear. “Satan, you are finished! Christ is victorious.” But with our internal fights and disagreements, we have turned the sweet taste of victory into the bitterness of defeat. Understand, I realize disagreement is a part of relationships, but what is not normal is the inability to move one. When there are issues that need correcting, the church needs to have those discussions. If we fail to teach the truth of God’s word we are doing the work of Christ a disservice. There also needs to be a desire at the end of the day to work together to do our shared mission.
In this High Priestly prayer notice how often the word “one” is used. “One” it appears in verse 21, twice in 11 and 22. The unity of God’s church should reflect the unity of the Father and the Son. Verse 23 reveals to us the nature of this agreement: the Son is obedient to the Father, and the Father loves the Son (v 23). Paul describes us as many members, but one body (Rom 12:4-5, Col 3:15).
To be crystal clear, to be one is not the absence of opinions. Opinions are healthy. But this unity is the lack of divisions. The church causes the greatest damage when it allows disagreement and disunity to grow in the body like an open sore. That open sore unchecked only festers and swells and spreads until it kills the body. Disunity weakens the effectiveness of the gospel. It scatters the flock. Disunity muffles the church’s witness in the world. The outside world looks at a church without unity and asks, “Who can believe their message?”
Let us not be divided, but united, to grow the church into what God would have it be. A pastor reminded me when I started in ministry, “there is nothing on earth like the local church when it is working right. It has the power to transform and changes lives.” Followers of the Lord Jesus Christ know that He is praying for you.
Jesus wants us to live as children of God. He promises to give us the strength to face whatever comes. Remember to pray for those around you and those far away. Bear in mind that we are to be salt and light to a bland and dark world. Bear in mind that Jesus is praying for us. Be like the tree of Psalm 1, “…their delight is in the law of the Lord…They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in due season.”
Other posts in this series on Prayer: