As I was listening to a Christian radio station on the way home from the office late last week, I realized that I’ve heard a recurring message from pastor and author Francis Chan on this particular Christian radio station over the last few weeks. In fact, this station has played short messages dubbed “1 Minute of Encouragement” from a number of well known Christian leaders over the years such as Max Lucado, Levi Lusko, Judd Wilhite, Louie Giglio and Francis Anfuso. The short message from Francis Chan that I’m referring to is based in John 17 often referred to as the “High Priestly Prayer.” Simply put, it is Jesus’ prayer. The part of the prayer that Francis focuses on is Jesus praying for “those who will believe.” In case you didn’t catch it, that includes us. All of us who proclaim that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
JN 17:20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me. 24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”
Francis makes a profound statement in his “1 Minute of Encouragement” message. He states, “if Jesus prays for us ‘that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us’ then it must be possible. Right?” Of course. Yes. That’s right. Since Jesus prayed it, it must be possible for Christians to be united like the Father and the Son of God are united. Now notice why Jesus prays for such unity, “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” He even states it a second time, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.”
As you read and re-read these few verses you will also see that the unity is not just with one another but with one another and with Jesus the Son of God and Father God, “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one . . .” I affirm what Francis has pointed out in this passage and I’d add that it must also be true that our unity as Christians is essential for the people of the world to know that the Father sent the Son since Jesus states this in His prayer. Actually, this is a prescriptive statement in Jesus’ prayer. Meaning, unity is a necessary testimony for the world to know Jesus was sent by the Father. Added to that, going back to John chapter 3, Jesus tells us why the Father sent Him.
JN 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
Allow me to make a couple of comments to clarify the boundaries and context of unity:
- This unity is in reference to any and all Christians (saved by grace through faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord).
- This unity only has power when Christians (in faith and practice) are not only united with one another, but unified with God the Father and God the Son.
- Christian unity is a result of God’s work in Christ, it is not something that we aim at for the sake of unity.
- Unity is not cause for compromise of the truth as scripture is the breathed out word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
- Christians must show maturity and charity toward one another when we disagree on the non-essentials and remain united for the cause of the gospel.
- Unity is not uniformity.
- Unity is more than just agreement but active engagement in relationship with one another and God for the sake of the gospel.
Going back to where I started, as I was listening to what Francis said in his “1 Minute of Encouragement” on the radio, I also thought about how disunity has devasted local churches and denominations and how the overall Christian community is severed. Let’s be honest. This has not only damaged our testimony as Christians, but has disgraced the work of Christ. This obviously isn’t God’s will. We certainly know this even after a glance at Jesus’ prayer in John 17. So, please join Jesus as an answer to His prayer and take action to be an unity influencer in your church and community for the sake of the gospel. Let me give you a few practical things you can do to be a unity influencer.
- Be prayerful (Eph 6:18)
- Be a doer of the Word (James 1:22)
- Be obedient to Jesus (Luke 6:46, John 14:15, 1 John 5:3)
- Be an example (1 Cor 11:1)
- Be forgiving (Eph 4:32)
- Be encouraging (1 Thes 5:18)
- Be prepared for spiritual warfare (Eph 6:10-17)
In addition, here a few organizations (in no particular order), not to exclude your local church, that you can support with your time and/or resources as a unity influencer for the sake of the gospel.
- Time to Revive
- Convoy of Hope
- Fellowship of Christian Athletes
- Youth for Christ
- Child Evangelism Fellowship
- Her Health Women’s Center (crisis pregnancy)
- The Gospel Mission
- Agape Community Services (long term addiction restoration)
- LifeChanger Missions
In conclusion, as I read Jesus’ prayer “for those who will believe,” I can only conclude that unity among Christians is a necessary testimony for the advancement of the gospel in our churches, our community, our state, our nation and the world.
A Work in Progress,