I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent me. -John 17:20-21
I never had noticed this verse before, until a recent Bible study where it was pointed out. We always say Jesus thought of you when He was on the cross, but not only did He think of us on the cross, He prayed for us at the beginning of His journey to the cross. In His prayer, He prayed for unity for us as we come to believe in Him and His Father, but He also prayed for our future behavior once we became Christians. Jesus prayed our behavior as Christians would reflect the love and behavior of Himself and God and that our unity in this would lead others to become Christians. How very much we needed that prayer!
I would imagine that, like myself, our behavior often doesn’t reflect that of the Father and Son. I’m reminded of an old joke about a woman who got angry with a man who didn’t run through a yellow light so she could also run through it when driving. She began to lay on the horn and yell and cuss at the man. A police officer came up to the car and arrested her. After she had been in a holding cell for a couple of hours, she was released. The police officer who arrested her came up to her to apologize. “You’ll have to understand my confusion,” he said. “You see, when I saw all the bumper stickers that said “Honk if you love Jesus”, “Proud member of ABC Church”, “Jesus Love You”, and “Jesus Freak” I naturally assumed the car was stolen.”
While we aren’t perfect and can’t be, our behavior often really is the only Bible many people will see. If you sit down and talk to people these days about why they don’t attend church, you’ll note a majority of the answers center around not being accepted at a church or the hypocrisy inside the church. We as Christians need to accept that the church is a hospital for the hurting not a resort for the perfect people. People coming into churches can’t be met with ultimatums about their behavior. We must meet them with the love of our Savior, just as Jesus prayed we would, to bring them to know Christ. They can learn to correct behavior as they grow in Christ, which they will be convicted of as they come to know Christ. We who are already at church and trying to follow Christ don’t need to try to act better than non-Christians or even other Christians. And that said, people outside the church can’t look to other Christians as their example when the only example we can all have is Christ Himself.
Lastly, Christ prayed for our unity. We all have different ways of worshipping and even different views on some Biblical issues. The Restorationist Movement is crucial in being able to restore unity and fellowship. The Restoration Movement holds that there are essentials or Salvation issues that we must agree on and non-essentials that there can be differences of opinions on. Most churches do agree on Salvation issues, but we allow non-essentials to separate us. To outsiders, this disunity makes the faith altogether appear weak and fear that Christianity can’t be trusted. We need to be more united as churches and celebrate our shared salvations essentials, while being clear that our diversity on non-essentials does not divide us as Christians. Jesus knew our unity would be important in bringing more people to know Him as Savior and that Satan could use it to lure others away, so it should be a priority to us to unite with other Christians in our service to others in order to lead them to Christ.