Jesus is Praying for Us

I recently heard an Indian brother recounting a conversation he had with a Hindu man. The man did not understand why the Hindu religion has 300 million gods and yet only one temple, while Christians claim to serve only one God and yet are splintered into thousands of groups and sub-groups?

That needling question is a good reason to reflect on the longest recorded prayer of Jesus, found in John 17. Uttered on the eve of his crucifixion, he begins by praying for himself (vv 1-5). He then makes requests for the eleven disciples present with him on that occasion (vv. 6-19). Finally, he prays, “for those who will believe in me through their word” (v. 20-26) – that’s us, folks! He’s praying for us! But listen carefully to what he prays. . .

Jesus asked that his followers would be preserved and characterized by loving unity, a unity defined by truth and clearly focused on the mission of saving the world. The importance of this unity is stressed several times in the prayer (v. 11, 20-23). Our unity around our gospel mission is in fact the primary way that the world will know we are followers of Jesus (v. 23).

I squirm just a bit when I think about Christians and churches I know as it relates to loving unity around the gospel – or when I think about my own pursuit of loving unity around the gospel.

Few of us would disagree that the modern ecumenical movement clearly lost it’s way and sacrificed truth in a mad rush toward “unity.”  But what about the ditch on the other side of the road?

We’ve all heard stories about churches who have been characterized by petty bickering and strife over a myriad of embarrassingly silly issues. Their lack of unity may result in new “churches” – but essentially removes them from effective connection to the mission of making Christ know to their community.

I’ll reflect more on this passage next week. Today, I’ll close with a couple of challenging reminders from Paul. . .

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3)

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27)

About Sam Harbin
I am the President of Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA as well as the Chair and Professor of Pastoral Theology.

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