After Judas left the last dinner to betray Jesus to the Jewish authorities, Jesus turned to his followers and told them,
"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
Like a prisoner on death row making his last walk, he focused only on the things that were of paramount importance
. One of the things he talked about was unity in the body of Christ. He told them to love each other.
After Jesus and the remaining disciples left the Upper Room, they walked to a garden. He prayed for the eleven men who would carry the message of his sacrifice of blood to the world, and then he said,
“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. 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 17:20-23).
Church history has been marked by some wonderful stories of believers sacrificing themselves for each other. But far too often, Modern Christians fail miserably to answer Jesus call to love sacrificially and build bridges of unity. We argue about petty things, get our feelings hurt at the drop of a hat, compete with each other for applause, thirst for power over each other, and compare everything from hats to houses so we can feel we’re a little bit better than others. Sadly, instead of bridges, we've built barriers.
We like to think of the early church as the Golden Age. Fifty days after the resurrection, God chose another feast, Pentecost, to send his Spirit to invade the lives of believers. It was a glorious day, and in the weeks that followed, it radically changed the nature of individuals and relationships. We get a glimpse of what Jesus was talking about when he prayed for unity when Luke tells us about the way believers loved each other in Jerusalem in those early days:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:42-47).
Let’s remember the example of the early church as we interact with each other today!
When and how have you seen Christ’s prayer for unity among believers answered?
What impact did it have on people?
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