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 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.
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?
The Rev. Dr. Stephen A. Macchia is the founding president of Leadership Transformations, Inc. (LTi). LTi is a ministry which focuses on the spiritual formation needs of leaders and the spiritual discernment processes of leadership teams in local church and parachurch ministry settings nationwide. He is the author of several books, including Becoming a Healthy Church, the Becoming A Healthy Church Workbook, Becoming A Healthy Disciple, the Becoming A Healthy Disciple Small Group Study and Worship Guide (LTi publication), and Becoming A Healthy Team.