Ray McDonald's Blog

Thoughts and Reflections

Jesus’ Prayer For Unity

John 17:21

…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.

Annual Conference is coming next week – a week I would look forward to in years past – a time to see old friends that are scattered all over the conference. It was a time to renew friendships and share war stories. It was a time to worship and learn and to be challenged. Although there have always been ideologies and theologies that differ from my own – we always seemed to get along – somehow.

In recent years – the divide between us has grown it seems. On issues like human sexuality there doesn’t seem to be a place for us to coalesce. On one side of the discussion – some expressions of sexuality are considered sinful – such as same-sex relations. On the other side of the discussion – same-sex attraction and relations is seen as normal and acceptable. For over four decades this debate has raged – yet in the last few years it seems to have gotten more and more divisive.

Add to the discussion persons born one gender who wish to be seen – treated – and recognized as the other gender – even going so far as to alter their gender identity with surgery – and the divide increases.

In the Body of Christ – where we are to be united – in order to show the world Jesus – we are being divided by ideologies and theologies. Some will quote – In Essentials Unity – In Non-essentials Liberty – In All Things Charity – yet when we have a difficult time defining the essentials where we should have unity – you can see where we are today. How can one side who sees same-sex relations sinful as sinful – for example – be in unity with the other side who sees same-sex relations as normative and acceptable?

And so the discussion and disagreement continues. Some say that same-sex relations are not the issue – but rather the issue is the way in which we interpret and honor the authority of the Bible. I tend to agree with this view. Is the Bible a nice book or is it the Word of God?

We may not all agree – yet today’s passage draws us to Jesus’ wish – even His prayer – for His body – believers. Here’s today’s passage in partial context. John 17:20–26 – 20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 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. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—23 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. 24 “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. 25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 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.”

As an evangelical – one of my concerns is the first part of this passage – My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. I believe our disunity is harming our message – harming the cause of Christ. If we cannot agree on the essential nature of the Word of God – we cannot hope to have unity.

Thinking about the Body of Christ – not simply one denomination – dividing over issues – however huge or small – is damaging our witness to an unsaved world. Satan is doing a good job – IMHO – dividing the message of Christ and His Body – diluting it at times – taking away its potency and impact.

If you’re reading this and hoping I have a solution – I’m sorry to frustrate you even further. The same-sex issue – the presenting issue of our divide over Scriptural authority – will further divide our denomination and the Body of Christ. As we divide we will label some the true followers and others as heretics or unbelievers even – and the witness of Jesus will be damaged even further.

I wish I knew a way forward. I wish there was a solution that would promote unity. I wish God would show us where we are all wrong and draw us closer together – the whole of the Body of Christ – not just within one denomination. We cannot expect to transform the world for Christ with such division in the Body.

And yet we read – 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.

I wish I had some answers. Instead – I scratch my head and wonder what Jesus wishes we would do!

Just something for us to think about today as we go on our way.

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May 23, 2017 - Posted by | Build, Church, Community, Daily Devotion, Denomination, Discipleship, Encouragement, Evangelism, Faith Journey, Family, From the Pastor, Leadership, Marriage, Outreach, Personal, Prayer, Theology | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I agree with you. Two points: 1. The Catholic Church has survived for 2,000 years with two splits – 1054 and 1519. And they have put up with some pretty awful popes and practices for various periods of times. They have even survived a period of 3 simultaneous popes. We Protestants seem to split at the drop of a hat. What part of unity and Jesus’ prayer don’t we get. 2. A fellow, a lone survivor of a sinking, was rescued from a deserted island. The rescuers noticed three buildings. What’s that one? Oh, that’s my house. And that one? Oh, that’s my church. And the third? Oh, that’s the church I used to go to. Funny, but sadly true.

    Like

    Comment by Henry Koether | May 23, 2017 | Reply

    • Henry, good to know you still read my musings and thoughts. I miss you friend. I pray for you often and hope that life is treating you well.

      Like

      Comment by raymcdonald | May 23, 2017 | Reply

  2. “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 believe the key is remaining in Jesus. I pray we all learn what that means and continue to practice it first. Then have debates about what ever else some may be tempted to call “essentials” after we put first things first. Being “In” the “Us”.

    Like

    Comment by thebrycelife | May 23, 2017 | Reply


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