In John 17 we find the High Priestly prayer of Jesus. Most scholars say that this is the real Lord’s Prayer. Most folks think of the prayer that starts, “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name…” as the Lord’s Prayer. Actually that is better described as the Model Prayer as it was in response to the disciples’ request to “Teach us to pray.”
In the John 17 prayer, Jesus prays for his disciples – both the remaining 11 at the time and for all future ones. It’s wonderful to know that our Lord prayed specifically for us. He asked the Father for some powerful things for His disciples including (1) that they may know Him; (2) that they would be kept from evil; (3) that they would have joy; (4) that they would be protected and (5) that they would be sanctified.
But five times He prays for something else! He prays for us to be in unity! Why? He gives us the answer in verse 21, “So that the world may believe that You sent me.”
It’s amazing to me that Jesus was linking the success of our Missions…our Witnessing…our World Evangelism to the unity of His disciples. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that when we are not in unity, when we fuss and fight, when we argue and split, the world will not believe in Jesus Christ.
Of all the analogies in the Bible to describe the relationship between Jesus and His people, the most powerful and descriptive one is the one where He is the “head” and we are the “body.” When He walked on this earth, He was infinitely winsome. He drew people to him by the tens of thousands. When He left the earth, He suggested that it would be even better when He was gone. Why? Because the Holy Spirit would inhabit the larger body of Christ: the Church. Consequently every time the Body of Christ gathers together, if we are in unity, “in honor preferring one another,” His charisma, His magnetism, His appeal will be exhibited and multiplied through us.
Nothing repels folks like a fussin’, fightin’, feudin’ church. Conversely, nothing attracts and validates the Gospel like a united Church that fully reflects that presence and character of Christ.
Our connectedness, our unity, our love for each other is the most powerful testimony to a lost and dying world of the reality of Jesus Christ! The world doesn’t typically read the Bible. They read us. Let’s give them something awesome…our love and unity…to read!