I’ve been sitting at my computer for over an hour this afternoon. This is a hard one to write, especially as I experience the divisiveness and chaos of the United States right now. Even among those who call themselves Christian, I see vitriol and judgmental criticism rooted in politics, not Christ, rather than efforts to listen and understand each other.
So I’m just going to dig into Scripture, like I usually do, and see what the Holy Spirit reveals.
The night before He was crucified, Jesus shared the Passover meal with His disciples, then He got to talking (John 14-16). His tone is urgent. There is much to say and little time to say it. There’s even more that has been said but not yet understood. This is His last chance, and as He nears the end, He begins to pray out loud.
I love to watch Jesus pray. It’s like having a peek into His heart.
First, He prays for himself (John 17:1-5). Next, He prays for the people near Him—His contemporaries who believed in response to His words and works (John 17:6-19). Then (and this is my favorite part), He prays for us: for you and me and every Christ-follower who has existed between then and now, plus those yet to be born (John 17:20-26).
Jesus had us in mind as He neared His crucifixion!
My prayer is not for them [the disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message. –John 17:20
And what is His primary prayer for us?
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. –John 17:21a
That they may be one. Unity.
Why is unity so important? (This feels like a catechism.)
May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. –John 17:21b
That the world may believe.
The purpose of our unity is to create an opportunity for the watching world to believe in Jesus. How do we—the living, tangible Body of Christ in 2020—achieve unity? I see two necessities in the text. We’ll look at one this week, and one next week.
Pursue God’s Glory
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one. –John 17:22
Jesus set it up so that, when we do things that honor God, God gets glory. Glory isn’t that different from honor and closely linked to worship.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness. –Psalm 29:2
Jesus glorified God through His words and works on earth, culminating in His obedient death on the cross. Likewise, we glorify Him when we obey, when we “represent” well, when we align our lives with Jesus’ model. It’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s not about memorizing a list of rules. Instead, it’s about:
the pursuit of God's glory, the intentional focus on honoring Him, the prioritizing of His will over our own...
Because His glory is a singular thing, our joint pursuit of it will bring us into unity as Christ-followers across the country and around the world.
If we can quit worrying about whether we’re getting it right and focus, rather, on His glory, we’ll find the Christ-life simpler and far more rewarding. Because there’s an aspect of God’s glory that reflects back onto us. His glory—not our own—becomes increasingly familiar as we learn to walk in this kind of obedience.
As we grow in His grace we find that God is glorifying Himself here and now, at this very moment. If we have God’s assurance behind us, the most amazing strength becomes ours, and we learn to sing, glorifying Him even in the ordinary days and ways of life.Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, June 4
What if every authentic believer (black/white, conservative/liberal, wealthy/impoverished, Calvinist/Armenian, Democrat/Republican/whatever) in the United States was more interested in God’s glory than their own?
I’m just going to leave that question right there and pick up next week with the other necessity Jesus reveals as He prays for our unity. You’re welcome to respond in the comments.
Only Christ-followers’ unified pursuit of God’s glory will show the world that Jesus is real. Part 1 on what’s necessary for this kind of unity. Because #GodsGlory is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)Tweet