It is as if Jesus is praying, “When the surrounding community looks at the church, may they see something that they don’t see anywhere else – a deep level of love, support, encouragement, and acceptance, just like I have brought to the world. Then, when they see it, may they be drawn closer to me.”
A wonderful prayer no doubt, but it is easier said than done. The fact that Jesus prayed this prayer at all suggests such oneness can only come through God’s power in answer to Jesus’ prayer. In fact, the lack of unity among Christians throughout history, both between groups and within groups, easily proves the point. We should never assume Christian unity comes naturally or easily.
Since history also records times of great unity there is hope for unity in our time. Further, Jesus’ prayer, “May they be brought to complete unity,” suggests that unity is a process that takes time. So while we may be burdened by our lack of unity, we should nevertheless be encouraged that it is not goodwill itself that engenders unity, although it is no doubt helpful. Rather it comes in our oneness in Christ which comes from God in answer to prayer.
So when we join Jesus in his prayer our church life should begin to reflect a unity in faith, truth, power, and life. It is Jesus’ assumption that with the coming of unity that the world will begin to perceive the reality that he has been sent by God and is indeed the Lord of all.
Last week I began a series exploring the values we hold at Hobart Baptist Church. Values are important because commonly held values are a key to our unity and a foundation from which our mission and ministry flow.
Thus we are encouraged to “like-minded” and “one in spirit and purpose” (Phil.2:2), for when we are, the prayer that Jesus prayed begins to be realised.
Stephen L Baxter