John 17:20-21 “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.”
It is deeply meaningful that in the last hours before He was arrested, Jesus didn’t just pray for the disciples who were there with him, He also prayed for all who would believe because of what those disciples had to say. That naturally includes every believer alive today, since none of us were on hand in the 1st Century. Once again we are back to the very deep truth that God, being outside of time, sees everything as now. As Jesus said to the Sadducees who didn’t believe in resurrection, God isn’t the God of the dead but of the living. (Matthew 22:32) Jesus didn’t just die for the people of the 1st Century, or even for all the people from Adam until then. He died for every person who has ever lived or will ever live. The dividing line for us all is whether we believe God and choose to follow Him. Jesus wants all who believe to be united as one, to the degree that the Trinity, though three, is one. That’s not something our human minds can really grasp. The thing to remember, though, is that if Jesus asked for it, it’s going to happen! Today we see almost limitless division in the Church, the Body of Christ, and that certainly doesn’t fall in line with this. Some of that is because of the very real heresies that have crept in, as Paul recognized. (1 Corinthians 11:19) However, Paul was extremely aware that the vast majority of divisions were for really trivial causes, and that grieves the heart of God. When our ultimate goal is unity with the Trinity, as Jesus says here, then we need to examine our unity or lack of it with our brothers and sisters. Pride is a huge factor in divisions, and we must be merciless in dealing with it in ourselves. At the same time, we are not to go around accusing others of pride, because that is being holier-than-thou. We are all equally in need of God’s mercy and grace! We are not to swallow heresy, but neither are we to allow honest differences of interpretation to be causes of division. I don’t think the Body of Christ needs organizational unity, other than being under one Head, Jesus Christ our Lord, but we certainly need unity of heart, of spirit. Some divisions come because of differing gifts and callings, as Paul discussed in 1 Corinthians 12 and elsewhere. Those are not bad, but we must never look down on others because they don’t have the same calling we do.
I could obviously go on about this for a long time! Growing up on the mission field, I think I learned very early that I had far more in common with any other Christian, regardless of the denominational label, than I had with any Buddhist or atheist. At the same time, our church activities were pretty strictly limited to our own denomination. That bothered me more and more as I grew, emotionally and intellectually and spiritually. I attended a denominational seminary and pastored a denominational church in the US, but that denomination rejecting me as a missionary because I was Charismatic really made me examine the whole issue. When the Lord opened the way for us to come to Omura without any external support, I was still quickly pulled into denominational activities, but after less than three years we pulled out. I made some real mistakes in that time and caused needless hurt, but God used it anyway. Right now we have fellowship with individuals and groups of many different labels, and we pay no attention to the labels. As C. S. Lewis noted, when we get to heaven we will all discover we were wrong about something! I am to preach about Christ in the love of the Father and the power of the Spirit, seeking the unity that Jesus Himself asked for, for His glory.
Father, thank You for this strong reminder. We have the possibility of visitors today from India who are wanting to worship You while they are in Japan. I have no idea of their denominational background, but I know that if they love Jesus, we are in the same family. Various things are changing in various churches in the city. May we all focus on You and hear what You are saying to us, so that Your plans may be fulfilled on Your schedule for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!