Answering Jesus’ Prayer for Unity

The seventh in the Stream's special series on #ChristianUnity

By James Robison Published on October 31, 2017

Editor’s note: This is the seventh piece in our series on Christian Unity.

As a teenager reading the biography of D. L. Moody, I was highly influenced by a statement Moody’s friend Henry Varley made to the young evangelist: “The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to Him.” As a boy, I said, “I want to be that person.” Now at 74, I still do! But even more, I want the world to see what God can do with a people who truly become disciples — His church on this earth, totally surrendered and committed to becoming an answer to Jesus’ prayers. Believers living in supernatural unity.

Earlier in The Stream’s #ChristianUnity series I shared how God has led me to meet with many diverse Christian leaders who religious tradition and the opinions of others had taught me to avoid. During these times of sharing and seeking together to know God’s heart, I have never disregarded or knowingly compromised God’s Word — and I never will. As a result, I have experienced firsthand the powerful truth of the psalmist, “How good and pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity” (Psalm 133:1). During these exchanges, I have many times felt what I perceived as the Father’s pleasure just as Betty and I experienced it when we watched our three children when they were young playing together in joyful harmony. The same has been true with our eleven grandchildren.

God’s Children in Harmony

What Jesus prayed for His followers is perhaps what seems to many as the impossible dream — “that they may be perfected in unity” (John 17:23). Knowing what I know about myself, other Christians, and especially ministers, this is the most difficult to see answered. If Jesus prayed it, however, it is more important than words alone can describe and obviously will be continually assaulted by the powers and principalities of darkness. The thought of believers being perfected in unity and love — truly becoming a family of faith with hearts in harmony with our Father in heaven — causes the forces of hell to tremble. The church standing on this foundation will overpower the realm of darkness, deception and destruction, setting free all captives who respond to the kingdom reality Jesus prayed for.

Hope, Even When God’s Children are Split

However, God’s children are split. Not merely on denominational lines, but on whether to hold firm to or abandon God’s timeless truths.

When we look at God’s divided family, we need to consider the parable Jesus shared concerning the father in the story of the prodigal son. This boy took from his father money that he had not earned or helped produce. He left the father’s presence, moved out of his shelter, and wasted everything the father had provided and entrusted to him. He damaged the family’s reputation with no regard for it, squandered his wealth in riotous living, and found himself in want. He was in such desperate need that of all things, this Jewish son had to live in a pigpen feeding unclean animals and eating what they ate. Because their laws and customs forbade contact with pigs, this was the lowest place a Jewish person could sink.

What was the response of the father concerning his son’s rebellion? He certainly didn’t condone it. He didn’t approve of it or continue to enable it. He didn’t act as the federal government often does by funding him while in rebellion in order to make him more comfortable. He prayed continually for the son. He cared deeply for him. The father’s love never diminished and he looked with a longing in his heart every day for that boy to return to the shelter, shadow and security of the father’s house. Sure enough, the day came, and he rejoiced to see his son come home! In love he embraced him, covered him and confirmed his sonship.

This should be the attitude of every Christian toward other believers even when they are defeated by sin or turn from the Truth. While not approving their actions, we continually pray for and long for a repentant heart leading to a return to the watch care of the Shepherd. In order for us to be perfected in the unity Jesus prayed for, we must have the love of our heavenly Father for one another. This is absolutely crucial.

Becoming Perfected in Unity

Consider the part of Jesus’ prayer that we be one with the Father as He is (John 17:22). Think about that a moment. Jesus was continually seeking to do only those things that please the Father. He moved as God directed His steps. He would separate Himself from the sounds of the world to know clearly the Father’s mind and be able to live in sync with His heart.

Can we not do the same?

Would you join me seeking to be one with the Father, perfected in unity so the world will know we are His disciples because of our love for Him, for one another, and for a world in darkness and pain? I may not know you personally, but I love you and I ask you to join with me seeking to be an answer to Jesus’ prayers so that the world may behold the glory of the Father and the Son in our lives! It is the manifestation of God’s love and our supernatural unity that can transform our nation’s leaders and citizens.

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  • Paul

    Might I suggest a different opening to your final question: Instead of asking “Would you join me…” what does it look like if the question were “Can I join you…” ? Leaders are accustomed to getting others to join them, but the dynamic changes and the sincerity level goes way up when you’re deciding to submit to the leadership of another in pursuit of unity. Yes I understand you’re submitted to God, but are you willing to submit to the authority of another Christian in your pursuit of unity and what does that look like?

  • It’s a noble cause, and only by the power of the Holy Spirit is it even remotely attainable. The church is currently in shreds – not just denominationally, but in terms of even basic moral teaching. Unity seems as far away as ever. May the Lord give us the grace to speak the truth in love, and pursue real reconciliation as much as is possible.

    • Paul

      Local churches are often in shreds. Talk of unity really means follow the leader, don’t question things, and if you do you’ve gotta go.

      • All too true. We need a radical change of heart and ecclesiology.

        • Kevin Quillen

          We need a shift away from organized religion and towards independent study.

          • Paul

            I’m wrestling with that whole issue personally right now. The Bible teaches us the importance and value of the gathering and communion of the saints but then every formal church I’ve participated in makes a mess of things and there’s not much left there that resembles the early church.

          • Kevin Quillen

            The only verse I hear used to say that we are supposed to go to church is Heb 10:25. However, they usually mention only the first part. The second half talks about “seeing the DAY approaching.” The question is what is “the day?” There are about 80 or so mentions of this or similar phrase in the old testament. They are never something to look forward to! Always God judging, or destroying someone or a nation. So I contend that the day spoken of in Heb 10:25 is not something to look forward to, i.e. rapture(if you believe in it), or second coming of Christ(if you think it is future event). I am convinced that this referred to the coming destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 70 AD. The end of the age, judgment on the Jews for the killing of the prophets and Christ.(Matt 23:36 and Matt 24:34) Therefore this “command” to attend church was for the first century Jewish Christians, who, knowing the meaning of “the Day of the Lord” would be strengthened in the soon coming tribulation. I always consider audience relevance and context to determine meaning. This was not written to you and me! I hope you get my point. Peace Brother.

          • Paul

            Along that vein it could be argued that much of the New Testament writings are not for us since they are letters intended for others. But I think the whole point is that there are truths that are timeless as long as we don’t take things fully out of context. The NT has too many examples of fellow believers gathering together to fully discount the value of continuing in that practice today, and the word “church” itself (ekklēsía) is to the best of my knowledge about community and assembly. The pressing question for me is what is that supposed to look like. The mess I see in formal churches today is often such a turn off, I’m at a loss to see how God is pleased with much of it.

      • Kevin Quillen

        Too true. Organized religion cannot tolerate independent thinkers. Independent, serious, prayerful study, reveals that much of is commonly taught is man made theology. If God gave an instruction manual on how to build a bird, organized religion would make a bird with it’s bill on it’s butt and that flies backward. I would bet that 95 out of 100 Christians cannot show from the Bible how they arrived at their theology. So sad. The credibility of Christ is at stake and the “church” is failing Him.

  • Trilemma

    I don’t see Christian unity happening until each Christian stops defining what a true Christian is in terms of himself or herself. Christians tend to believe that they, and anyone who believes the same as they do, are the true Christians and that everyone who believes differently are not true Christians. Unity won’t happen until all Christians accept that Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, Southern Baptists, Catholics, gay affirming churches, etc. are all true Christians.

    • Kevin Quillen

      “gay affirming churches”
      So except and promote sin? How about adultery affirming churches, drunkenness affirming churches, etc.? Homosexuality is sin! Not better or worse than any other, just sin. The “church” has compromised too much already. JW’s do not worship the same Jesus as Christians. Therefore they are NOT Christian. Jesus said “call no man on earth father”, Catholics violate this. Christian? We have only one Father. Christians follow the one true God and His Son, Jesus Christ.

      • Trilemma

        But are Christians in gay affirming churches true Christians? Are Catholics true Christians? Are Oneness Pentecostals who believe God is not triune true Christians? Would your church work with any of these churches to minister to the homeless?

    • Kathy

      What I have found after blindly following a particular denomination and eventually doubting what was being taught, I started studying for myself. I came to the conclusion that there does not need to be anything added to Scripture, nor should there be. If a church’s teaching sticks strictly to God’s Word in the Bible, encourages independent or group study of it, and refrains from putting a man’s proclamations of supposed revelations in the forefront, I believe we would not be dealing with these issues. There are so many denominations because people have “gone off the rails” for too many reasons to count.

      • Trilemma

        I agree. The Apostles Creed was pretty simple and a lot had to be added to get to the Baptist Faith and Message. Do you think the belief that God is triune was something that was added to scripture?

        • Kathy

          Baptists are certainly not the only denomination, but you may be most familiar with them. I tend to focus on the one I know most about through experience. As you know, people tend to make things way more complicated than they need to be.

          I don’t at all think the Trinity was added…the actual word is not in there, but there are many references to it. If you just look it up, you will find the verses. I didn’t notice these, however, possibly because they don’t mention the Holy Spirit. “I and the Father are One” and “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father”.

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