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Please note the following is an excerpt from “Jesus’ Prayer from A to Z”, of which I’m Editor.
– D – Dangers of Division, by Derry, John
“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 17:23
When Jesus prayed for unity among his followers, he did so with our best interests in mind. His sensitivity to human nature made him keenly aware of how quickly and easily people allow their personal prejudices and selfish nature to erect barriers between themselves and others. Such attitudes are not without negative consequences. Just as a spirit of unity can serve to communicate the love of God to the world as they see believers dwelling together in harmony (Psalm 133:1), a divisive spirit reveals that something is amiss, raising suspicion in the minds of those same people. Division is a tactic Satan uses for his purposes. It creeps into a fellowship in a subtle way, often beginning with a minor incident or two, and soon becomes the proverbial “elephant in the room” that we try to ignore, until it becomes so obvious we must deal with the problem. Division is dangerous; and we need to be aware of how it impacts the Body of Christ.
Division drains – our energy. When the Apostle Paul admonished the Corinthians for the division that existed within the church (I Cor. 11:18), he reminded them how the problem was even affecting their participation in the Lord’s Supper. This holy activity was not serving the purpose Jesus intended; and in fact, the attitude of those who harbored hostility toward others made it an occasion of sin (11:27). This Corinthian congregation’s energy was being drained; and the division was even having an impact on the physical health of the members (11:30). Numerous studies cite the negative effects of stress on the human body. When there is an environment of tension and anger, we can expect it to take its toll on the people involved. When Jesus prayed for unity, he did so knowing that an atmosphere of peace and love is much more conducive to health, both individually and corporately.
Division destroys – our witness. Jesus experienced the hostility the world exhibits toward those who take a stand for the Lord, yet he knowingly sent his disciples out to face those harsh conditions (John 17:14). A united front sends a message to the world. It says we stand together for something we all believe in so fervently that we are willing to face persecution and, if necessary, give our lives for the cause. However, when the world hears one thing, but sees something different, it dismisses the message as empty rhetoric. Division within the church can be interpreted by the world that the message of God’s love has no validity. As John noted in his letter, “If anyone says, ‘I love God’, yet hates his brother, he is a liar.” (I John 4:20)
Division distracts - us from our mission. There is so little time in life to accomplish
the mission to which Jesus calls us. We cannot afford to be distracted. The time spent
arguing, criticizing and complaining could be so much better directed if it was invested in serving, praising and building up the Body of Christ. There is not a single follower of Christ who has been exempted from the responsibility of letting others see the love of God in action. As Jesus prayed, we have been “sent” into the world on his mission. Nothing is more important, and keeping this in focus puts divisive issues in the proper perspective.
When the warning signs become evident, we would be wise to take whatever corrective measures necessary to prevent division from doing serious damage. Seek forgiveness. Become a peacemaker. Demonstrate unconditional love. Pray for one another. Focus on what we have in common. Remember the petition of Jesus for our unity, when he poured out his heart to the Father on our behalf.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for opportunities to be an instrument of reconciliation. Make me a good listener. When I see the devastation caused by division and damaged fellowship in the Body of Christ, help me be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Give me courage to act and power in prayer. Bless my family and church with the beauty of unity and joy of peace that comes from our common bond in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen
Derry, Dr. John - Fullerton, CA - President, Hope International University since 2003. Past President, Dallas Christian College. Graduate of Lincoln Christian College and Seminary (Master), Western Illinois U. (Master), East Tennessee State (Doctorate), Seoul Christian University (Honorary Doctorate). He and wife Jane have two children and five grandchildren.
Sin must be recognized in order to be acknowledged;
Acknowledged in order to be repented of;
Repented of in order to be cleansed;
Cleansed in order to be renewed;
Renewed in order to be restored;
Restored in order to be fruitful;
Fruitful in order to be faithful;
Faithful in order to be approved.
- Thomas E. Mackey
Have I allowed the sin of divisiveness any haven in my heart?
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Believers in Denmark, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican RepublicThis message has been edited. Last edited by: Tom (Jn.17:21) M.,
Fellowship of John 17:21
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