The Power of One
‘Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name – the name you gave me – so that they may be one as we are one.’ (John 17:11)
The atmosphere in the Upper Room is hard to imagine. Jesus has shared the Passover with his disciples; he has washed their feet and spoken of his departure; he has taught about the coming Holy Spirit; he has warned them of opposition to come. And now, as their time together comes to its end, he does the most important thing he can: he prays. And what was most on his heart – even knowing what was about to happen - was not himself, but them; and not just them, but also ‘those who will believe in me through their message’ (John 17:20). His longing at that moment seems strange in such circumstances: not for strength for himself, but for unity for them.
Such unity is not about structures or organizations, he said, but about heartfelt love based on truth. Both are indispensable foundations to this unity. Little will be achieved by love if it is not on the basis of biblical truth; but equally, little is achieved if we are strong on biblical truth but cannot love, or at least cannot love those followers of Jesus who do some things differently.
Paul said that we were not to pass judgment on other believers over ‘disputable matters’ (Romans 14:1). Other versions translate this verse as: ‘Don’t criticize them for having beliefs that are different to yours’ (CEV); ‘Don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong’ (NLT); ‘Do not argue about opinions’ (NCV); ‘Don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with’ (The Message).
There are some secondary matters on which Christians have validly different viewpoints, and there must be room to accept these. As someone has said, ‘In necessary things, unity; in doubtful things, liberty; in all things, charity.’
In the light of Jesus’ prayer, will such a heart to be ‘one’ with fellow Christians be our passion today, with the powerful results that this can bring?
‘May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.’ (John 17:23)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont