Our Lord and Master, Jesus, has all power in heaven and earth. He has sent us to tell the world the Good News and proclaim Him as the true King of the World.
So where does the power come from to succeed in our task?
Jesus’ answer to this question is found in His prayer recorded in John 17.
John 17:23 ” I in them and you in me — that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.”
‘so that’: the Greek word is ‘kia hinna’ and is causal even though the KJV uses ‘and so’. Jesus himself said that If we do not walk in unity, then all of our good works and preaching will have limited impact.
Unity is the miracle that convinces the world Jesus is divine and His prayer was answered. Just minutes before this prayer, the disciples were arguing over who among the disciples was the greatest. They were arguing even though Jesus had given them strong teachings on servant leadership several times in the previous days and even that evening.
After this prayer and the resurrection, these formerly contentious disciples walked in unity. At Pentecost they were in ‘one accord’. It is startling: 3 years of power ministry by Jesus, accompanied by disciples always arguing over who was the greatest, yielded only a handful of disciples. A few days of ministry after Pentecost yielded thousands.
This unity was tested over the years, but it held even when Paul and Peter crossed swords over Jewish customs.
So how is this unity produced? Again, the answer is in Jesus’ prayer. John 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, so that they can see my glory that you gave me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
We don’t come into unity because of cleverly crafted statements of faith or human negotiation. In fact, those get in the way. Why? because they focus on us. Unity comes when we are corporately focus on ‘His glory’.
‘they can see’: Corporate experience of Jesus’ glory makes all the difference. The church today knows something about glory and God’s love. But most of what I have seen is all about individuals. It is about me seeing His glory and feeling His love. That is an important start, but we must not stop there.
Me seeing the glory can bring competition and jealousy. Peter and John can compete over seeing the glory, just like their competition over everything else. I think it was when Peter saw John in the light of Jesus’ glory and saw that the Father loved John just like He loved Peter, that things changed.
When we see our competition standing with us in the light of Jesus’ glory, then we stop jockeying for positions which we think correct and fighting over who is greatest, and then we are drawn into our proper places in the Kingdom.
The history of revival and the great advances in missions support this claim. In China, Korea, and Indonesia: Missions movements that were struggling exploded when the workers became convicted by the Holy Spirit for their squabbling and infighting, repented, and came together in prayer. Prayer often gets the credit, but the key was unity.
Recent experience in Cambodia reinforces this truth and I have more detail there. Missions and NGO relief efforts exploded in Cambodia in 1992 when the door opened after the ‘killing fields’. At first there was success in evangelism and the Church began to grow. Unfortunately ‘exploded’ is the right verb, because the workers and the church quickly shattered. No two churches could agree on anything and churches split regularly.
The result? a worker who had been in Cambodia from the beginning told me that the people of Cambodia loved Christians. However, they loved what Christians did for the nation and they testified that we were the only ones giving and asking nothing in return. High praise, but they were not interested in Jesus and certainly not convinced he was God.
In 2014, there was a concerted effort to pray for unity and for the believers to see Jesus in His Glory as King and to see others in that glory with Him. Slowly, things began to change inside the Cambodian Church. People began to walk with one another, and, even when they did not agree, they could bear with one another. Immediately news of a renewed openness to the Gospel surfaced!
Unity continues to grow in the Cambodian church and among workers there, as does an openness of non-believers as to Jesus and who He really is.
There is much that must be said about what ‘unity’ looks like and who we are in unity with. In later posts, I will try to propose some ways to think about this question and point out some pitfalls.
However, the twists and turns of our relationships inside the body all come down to this. It is all about Him and His glory. If we keep that as the main thing, then everything else will fall into place.