A Prayer for UnityAlthough we concern ourselves with unity of those we fellowship as members of the body of Christ, many people exist outside our fellowship, who call themselves Christians. Some of these may find confrontational and challenging Bible study a waste of time, because "We are all Christians already!", as they might say. Temporarily laying aside the necessary implications of our division upon our personal relationship with God, let us consider another undeniable reason for Bible study that questions our differences - unity. Unity was very important to Jesus. Let us consider, "Why?".
The Need for UnityOne of the dreadful consequences of division is lack of successful evangelism. Division depletes and diminishes our ability to reach the lost. In Jesus' prayer for unity, he asks:
"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:20-21)Unity enhances and extends our influence to the lost, which creates more opportunities to teach and possibly convert sinners to Jesus. If we care about reaching the lost, then we will also care about being unified with others who call themselves Christians. One who does not so care for the lost neither hopes nor loves as God hoped and loved (Romans 5:6-8; I Corinthians 13:7; I John 4:7-11; Romans 8:20).
Agree to Disagree?In addition to describing the benefit of unity, the above prayer also provides us a qualifying imperative: It must be a true unity, which exists only in Jesus Christ and the Father. Some have adopted the notion of "unity in diversity" as a means of solving our differences. The philosophy is "Let us agree to disagree". Although division is certainly evil, unity should not be obtained at the price of compromising truth:
"This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy." (James 3:15-17)Division originates and is maintained wherever carnal desires reign. This occurs wherever man's will and wisdom are followed. However, if we submit our will to the "wisdom from above", then we will find peace. Yet, peace is not the most important goal of this divine wisdom. It is "first pure, then peaceable". Therefore, unity must never be achieved by sacrificing purity. Truth should not be sacrificed for a compromising peace accord (Jude 1:3; II Thessalonians 2:9-12; John 17:17).
What good is unity in error? Such unity only accelerates our rush into error, away from God, and into its consequential destruction. Only by seeking to unify on a pure, solid foundation may we find true peace (Philippians 4:13).
The Power of PrayerHow much power does Jesus' prayer hold? James said that the prayer of a righteous man "avails much" (James 5:16-18). It is difficult to find a prayer uttered by a man more righteous than Christ; therefore, to those who esteem Him a righteous man, this prayer will hold great sway as it outlines Christ's will for us. Never mind its influence on the mind of the Father as He provides for His children. The question for us is, "Do we feel any need to do our part to recognize the fulfillment of the Lord's prayer?"
See also: When Jesus Prayed, The Gospel Guardian, vol. 6, num. 43, p. 5. March 10, 1955.