In order for us to be perfected in the unity Jesus prayed for, we’ve got to have the love of the Father for one another.
I have been seeking diligently for the last several years to help inspire believers to become an answer to the prayer of Jesus in John 17: First, that we become one with the Father and then that we are perfected in a supernatural unity perhaps seldom witnessed throughout human history. It is important and possible or Jesus would not have prayed for it. I am continually experiencing the power of this love that changes all things and enables people to come together in holy unity as the family of faith the Father has always longed for.
Consider the first part of Jesus’ prayer that we “be one with the Father as He is.” Think about that a moment.Jesus was continually seeking to do only those things which 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.
When we look at how divided the family of God is, we also need to consider the illustration Jesus shared concerning the father in the story of the prodigal son. This boy took from his father that which 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 his watchcare. He ended up damaging 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 pig pen feeding unclean animals, and actually eat what they ate. This was the lowest place a Jewish person could sink, because their laws and customs forbade contact with pigs.
What was the response of the father concerning this rebellion? He certainly didn’t condone it. He certainly didn’t approve of it, or continue to enable it. He didn’t act as the federal government often does by funding his rebellion in order to make him more comfortable. He prayed continually for the son. He cared deeply for him.The 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. While not approving their actions, we continually pray for and long for a repentant heart leading to a return to the watchcare of the shepherd. In order for us to be perfected in the unity Jesus prayed for, we’ve got to have the love of the Father for one another. This is absolutely crucial.
Years ago, Billy Graham wisely suggested, “I encourage you to spend time with people you’ve been taught to avoid.” It’s amazing how religious prejudices and traditions not only separate us from God, but from one another. I have seen the miracle of the transforming power of love when it’s allowed to flow freely through yielded vessels who are allowing the sails of their life to catch the fresh wind of the Spirit and also allow fresh oil to make even dry wineskins once again flexible enough to receive new wine in its boundary stretching, supernatural power. It is when we come together recognizing the Father and receiving His love that we are able to enter into a holy harmony with the brethren, even when we know they may be out of sync or out of step. It’s amazing how quickly we discover how far we may be out of sync ourselves when we are diligently seeking to “keep the unity of the Spirit in a bond of peace,” the apostle Paul encouraged in Ephesians chapter four.
In the same passage, Paul emphasized the importance of the fivefold ministry – apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers – and how we can be equipped and built up from unity in the Spirit and bond of peace toward unity of the faith. Remember, “faith works by love” and it is “love that never fails.” When we learn to “speak the truth in love,” there can be healing in the family rather than more division.
True spiritual unity and oneness is never to be interpreted as sameness. God didn’t make two fingerprints, two snowflakes, or any two people the same, but with all of our diversity, we can have supernatural unity. Whether you believe it or not, this power settled on the founders of the United States, enabling them to establish a foundation greater than any of the character strengths and traits they possessed individually. They were part of a miracle! We need another such miracle today. I am witnessing encouraging signs and long to be a part of the answer to Jesus’ prayer – one with the Father and perfected in supernatural unity with one another.
Paul went on to teach that as we respond to the ministry of the Spirit through these gifted, called-out communicators of truth, we will begin to connect to one another as members of the body of Christ. As an illustration, the upper arm connects to the lower arm so that the hand functions effectively, especially if it is submitted to the head. We see here a picture of the body of Christ as the members connect one to another. We can extend the hands and arms of God to a world in desperate need of the comfort that can be offered through His body when it is built up into the fullness of the stature of Christ. To make it clear, when the church – the community of faith with all of its diversity and unique parts – suddenly becomes connected to one another and submitted to the head, we will accomplish the will of God on earth. An answer to His prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth.” Right here, right now through the family of faith!
I believe the church must first experience the unity and healing power of God before we will witness it in our nation.