Please note the following is an excerpt from the book, “Jesus’ Prayer from A to Z”, of which I’m Editor.
- P - Perfect Paradigm for Unity, by
Pereira, Mary Ellen
Jesus expressed a deep heart-wish when He prayed for us on the night before
His death. His most personal prayer included the desire that we who believe in Jesus
would “be one” just as the Father and the Son are in complete unity. We know this is
one of the deepest longings of Jesus’ heart, yet we are also forced to admit that we
continually disappoint the Lord in this area. As a result, the world continues to be
skeptical rather than believing in Jesus.
Guilt over this failure often motivates us to redouble our efforts to live in
better harmony with other Christians. But it’s usually only a matter of time before
the disagreements and irritations erode our best intentions, and we neglect or abandon
our family ties with other followers of Christ. Unity may seem impractical, nearly
hopeless, requiring too much effort.
Jesus, however, did not assume that our unity would arise out of our own
efforts to get along, but as a natural result of abiding in God. Jesus prayed to the
Father, “May they also be in us so that the world may believe”. (John 17:21) Our
being one with each other is God’s gift, but enjoying its fruit is only possible when
we live closely with God, imitating and partaking of the divine relationship.
We’re not the only Christians who find unity to be difficult. The Second
Corinthian letter contains piercing reminders of the painful damage of division within
the Body of Christ. Yet this same letter closes with a perfect paradigm for unity, a
paradigm that is illustrated by “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of
God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit”. (2 Corinthians 13:13, NIV)
I grew up in a large family. Because we did not always get along in the
rough and tumble of our daily activities, Mom and Dad had to teach us how to have
good relationships with each other. “Think how someone else feels”; or “you need to
say you’re sorry”; or “it’s time to give someone else a turn” were all useful in guiding
us to build positive, strong relationships with each other. These admonitions were
giving us models for healthy family interactions. We were learning how to have
loving relationships with our brothers and sisters. In the same way, we have been
given models of how to restore loving relationships in the church, even when those
relationships have previously suffered severe damage.
Jesus, who demonstrated such grace toward us, shows us how to forgive
even the most egregious wrongs. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what
they do.” (Luke 23:34) His disregard for perceived barriers of political affiliations,
ethnic backgrounds, gender distinctions, and social status teaches us to graciously
welcome others into the family of God. “There is neither Jew nor Greek... slave nor
free... male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28)
The love of the Father, who sacrificed His most precious, only Son, models
for us the attitude and action of giving up what is dear to us so that we can be in
relationship with others.” For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten
Son, that whosoever believes on Him might not perish, but have everlasting life.”
The fellowship of the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us (Romans 8:9-11) and
prays on our behalf (Romans 8:26), reminds us that we are made to have close
companionship together (Romans 5:5), as we care about others’ interests, not just
Unity is sorely needed in the church, and the perfect paradigm for restoring
this unity is the same as the model offered in Paul’s benediction to the church at
Corinth. It begins with extending grace and forgiveness to each other, loving
unconditionally those who do not yet love us, and taking the time to understand the
heart of a person.
Lord, this is our prayer: May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and
the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit overflow in our lives,
producing the fruit of unity - evidence the world can believe. Amen.
Pereira, Mary Ellen - Eugene, OR - Associate Professor, Christian
Ministry, Northwest Christian College. Graduate of Great Lakes Christian
College (B.R.E.), Emmanuel School of Religion (M.A.; M.Div.), Princeton
Theological Seminary (Th.M). Served with TCM, Vienna, Austria; First
Christian Church, Greeneville, TN; and Puget Sound Christian College.
Married to Ron Pereira (say Peh-RARE-ah).
We would be one in hatred of all wrong,
One in our love of all things sweet and fair,
One with the joy that breaks forth into song,
One with the grief that trembles into prayer,
One in the power that frees Your children, too,
To follow Truth, and thus to follow You.
- John W. Chadwick (1840-1904) altered
Is there any fellow believer (or group) you just can’t stand? Any against
whom you hold a grudge? Any you have not forgiven?
Any you do not love? Are you ready and willing to seek reconciliation?
Pray Jesus’ prayer for:
Prisoners (their families, guards)/ The Poor/ Postal workers
Pray Jesus’ prayer for:
Believers in Pacific Islands, Pakistan, Palau, Palestine,
Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru,
Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico
Fellowship of John 17:21
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