A couple of weeks ago, I was visiting the Middle East, in order to spend time with some friends and church partners there. Jordan is one of the most stable countries in the midst of a particularly turbulent region, thanks to a variety of factors, including . Even though the Christian population of Jordan is less than 3% of the entire nation, the relative stability of Jordan gives tremendous opportunities for the church and individual Christians to touch the lives of those who are seeking refuge in their country.
In one part of the country, where refugees are spilling over the border from neighboring Syria and Iraq, I witnessed a number of people and groups from various backgrounds working together. The needs are massive, but the total amount of work being done was much larger than what one person or group could do on its own.
It is amazing what happens when people come together to serve a great need with greater unity.
The same is true with the church. When we come together to serve a great need with greater unity we bring greater glory to God.
In the Gospel of John just before Jesus is arrested, tried, and eventually crucified we come across what is known as Jesus’ “High Priestly Prayer.” It is the longest prayer we have from Jesus’ lips and also summarizes much of Jesus’ earthly ministry. I’d like to draw out one portion of that prayer found in John 17:20-26 here.
My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.
When Jesus comes to the end of His ministry, it is striking to see what He occupies the central place in His prayer for those who will follow Him.
We may think that the most important prayer is for people to be saved, or for the church to be revived, or for our worship services to be full, or our offerings to be overflowing, or our songs to be invigorating, or any other number of things.
But Jesus does not pray for those things. He prays that we would be unified. Again and again, the themes of unity appear: “that all of them may be one” (17:21) and “that they may be brought to complete unity” (17:23).
Jesus’ driving point in prayer is for the unity of the church.
Now, here is the point: without unity, the church will never do any of those other things.
Without unity, our songs will not be full of energy.
Without unity, our offerings will not be overflowing.
Without unity, people will not be drawn to our worship services.
Without unity, the church will never reach revival.
Without unity, the message of the church will not be compelling.
Jesus knows that unity within the church is foundational for all that the church is called to be.
And this is not only true with our relationships within one individual church – it is also true of our relationships amongst churches together.
The passionate desire of Jesus is for His people to be unified, both within our individual churches but also amongst groups of churches, whether in our city or around the world.
When we come together as churches to serve a great need with greater unity we bring greater glory to God.
[For more posts on this theme, see the series of posts related to “Together.”]