A spirit of unity
In the Gospel of John, chapter 17, we read the following verses, “ 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—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”
This last month has been quite an unsettling time for many in our nation. As the leaders on Capitol Hill continue to haggle over the national budget and the debt ceiling, there are many in our country that are hurting as a result from it. Currently, we have many of our DOD employed brothers and sisters who are facing unsettling questions such as: “When am I going to get paid?” “How am I going to afford my monthly mortgage?” “How am I going to take care of my family?” The frustration and the anxiety only increase as we watch political leaders on both sides of the aisle, deeply entrench their position in a way that is completely polar from that of their political opponent’s. It really doesn’t offer much hope to the populace when we watch our leaders scramble to win the popular favor of the people by shouting out to the press why “their side is right, and the other side is wrong.” If I were to describe our leader’s problem on Capitol Hill to just one word it would have to be “dis-unity.”
A spirit of unity is what is needed in our country today more than ever. Since 9/11, we have seen the caption “United We Stand” plastered on billboard signs, bumper stickers and lapel pins. The message behind it was a clear message to our enemies that “we are a united front.” Years ago, our national forefathers opted to call our country made up of various states and provinces, “The United States of America.” Yes, more than ever today our leaders need to look to the past in order to move forward to the future and realize that a spirit of unity has been a bedrock to our great republic.
In the Christian faith, Jesus spoke in the Gospels about a unity that goes far beyond patriotism – yet clearly sets a template design as to why unity is so important.
In John 17:23, Jesus prays in the Garden, “I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
In this section Jesus was about to go to the cross. He knew that He would not be with His disciples much longer. He prayed for the unity of his disciples around Him. Jesus knew that His disciples would never make the impact in the world that they needed to unless they were united.
In the original group of disciples there were definite tensions. The brothers James and John asked Jesus for the right to sit at the left and right hand seat of Jesus when he came into His kingdom. This caused an outrage of jealousy amongst the other disciples. Earlier that evening there was a heated discussion amongst the disciples as to “who was the greatest?”
In that little group, there were characters like Matthew the Publican, tax collector, who previously sold out to Rome and a zealot extremist who pledged to kill people like Matthew.
Jesus also prayed for the generations of believers that were to come. In verse 21 we see Him say that “He prayed for all believers.” The unity of the church would not be something that could be duplicated by man – it had to come from God. Admittedly, in the history of the organized church, there have been times that we have failed in the mission of unity. But when we see it working in the church – the unity of God’s people is unlike anything else on earth. It is not merely the unity of an organization – it’s God’s people in unity with God Himself.
Christians are drawn to one another because we are drawn to a common center found in Jesus Christ. A unified community of God’s people compels the world to acknowledge God and to confess that He is amongst us. In a day when the spirit of dis-unity dominates our television airwaves and social media sites; I would encourage all who are “people of faith” to ask God to forgive us where we have failed and to unify us as His people. If it’s done right it’s compelling and others will take note. Who knows, maybe this template will make it to Capitol Hill, too.