Ironic Timing
By |   March 21, 2011 |   in Lent, Spiritual Practices |   1 Comment

Have you ever thought how amazingly ironic it is that Jesus’ great prayer of unity and oneness in John 17 comes immediately before his crossing the Kidron Valley to the olive grove where he would be betrayed, denied, arrested, captured by soldiers, and ushered into the multiple miseries that accompany him at the end of his passion week?

Here in John 17 Jesus is praying for himself, “glorify your Son, that your son may glorify you,”  his disciples, “protect them by the power of your name,”  and all believers, the apex being verse 23, “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.”

But within hours of this prayer each phrase would be put to the test. Here Jesus is praying for unity, when in the final few days of his earthly life it would be anything but unity. The confusion on the streets runs rampant, from the high priest to the Roman governor to the crowds and even among the disciples.  Unity? Hardly visible—until his arms are outstretched in love on the cross.

Unity is the central theme of Jesus’ prayer. Unity of the Godhead. Unity among the disciples. Unity for all the believers. Unity. Oneness. Love.

Unity among the believing community. Have we made any significant progress since Jesus gave voice to that prayer 21 centuries ago? It’s never too late. Choose today to be a uniter and not a divider. Make a decision this Lent to unite the faith community right where you live. Build a bridge of love and mercy. Reach out to a leader in another denomination. Pray for those in the church down the street—by name and with sincerity. Invite someone of a different culture or ethnicity to lunch or coffee. Do whatever it takes to fulfill Jesus’ prayer today.

How ironic. How timely. How so like Jesus.

Join the Conversation

How do you feel about taking up the challenge to bring more unity into the Body of Christ this Lent?

Even if you already have a Lenten discipline, what might change if you began to pray for unity in the Church in specific and personal ways?

Stephen A. Macchia:
Macchia3_2010   Stephen A. Macchia, D.Min.,  is the Founder and President of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (;  Director of the Pierce Center, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; Author of several books, including Crafting A Rule of Life (IVP) and Becoming A Healthy Church (Baker) and lives in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts. Steve and his wife, Ruth, have two children, Nathan and Rebekah, and make their home in Lexington, MA.
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    • Michael Reid

      Thank you so much for this wonderful call for unity. I am currently serving on the “beliefs” committee for a new church start. We are a non-denominational church. The committee is made up of a former Southern Baptist, a Wesleyan , a former Church of Christ, a Methodist, and one more person that I am not sure about. I think this is wonderful. The ecumenical makeup of the committee heartens me beyond words. Unfortunately, it appears that the consensus of the committee is to figure out what we are going to believe as a church and make this document a detailed declaration. Beyond the basic tenets of the gospel, I think that our church should be founded on ecumenism. One paragraph should do it. I hear Jesus saying, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you Love one another.” “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another.” The greatest commandment? “Love the Lord thy God with all of thy heart, mind, soul, and strength, and the second is like unto it, that you love your neighbor as yourself.”
      BUT that is not what we have done. We are all busted up over differences of beliefs – most of which are paradoxical in the scripture anyway. Many of the greatest devisions in the Body of Christ are over things that one could argue intelligently and scripturally from both sides. We should embrace the mystery of God. Listen to one another with respect and honor and learn with humility what other people believe. I am not nearly as sure of my theology as I used to be but i am more sure than ever that the church has it all wrong. Love should be first, theology should be a lot further back in our priorities and in the way we relate. One of our leaders said that if we don’t come to a consensus, then it will be confusing to people who ask what we believe about a particular theological issue. I think it would be great to say, “well, I believe… but if you asked Elder so and so about this subject, he can tell you a different way to look at it etc”.
      I guess I am an idealist. Thanks again for your call for unity!