Bible Society of South Africa

In step with God: United in love - 26 January 2024

By Louise Gevers

Bible text(s)

21I pray that they may all be one. Father! May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.

John 17:21GNBOpen in Bible reader

Whether soldiers are marching at a national event, or are on a drill ground, it’s an impressive sight. The strict formation they maintain as they keep in step with one another enables them to move as one. It’s amazing how expressive this fluid movement can be, as was poignantly portrayed in the nearly five kilometre funeral march of the late Queen Elizabeth II, screened on television. There was no mistaking the deep devotion and respect shown their monarch in this united test of endurance.

Unity is powerful; it signifies togetherness, solidarity and harmony; in mathematics it means one. The opposite is disunity which is seen in division, tension, disconnectedness, discord, and disorganisation, but to see unity’s admirable outer effect, there has to be inner cohesion. How do we reach this as Christians?

We reflected briefly on co-operation and harmony in the first piece of this series, but today we recognise that Jesus’ prayed for unity for his disciples before he completed his mission on earth, and that he promised to send “another Helper” (John 14:16) in the form of the Holy Spirit who would guide, inspire and strengthen them in times of weakness.

We, as believers, are included in his prayer as, “those who will believe in [Him] through their message”. (John 17:20) so it also applies to us today. His words to his Father are, “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.” (John 17:23, NIV)

It’s about love and prayer.

When Christians uphold Jesus’ “new” commandment to “love one another”, sacrificially, as he loves them (John 13:34) they work together in harmony and will be recognised as his disciples. The early church achieved this after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the believers, because they “were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2:44, NIV) They were from different cultures and religions, but Jesus’ love was their example as they lived in the power of the Spirit.

By selling their possessions and sharing all they had, they ensured that everyone was provided for; and the church grew through this practical love among them. It remained while they had the vision and followed Jesus faithfully. Although it didn’t continue in quite the same manner later, we know that Jesus still wants us to show that, although we have different backgrounds, we are all on the same page through his love.

In the words of an old song: “When I needed a neighbour were you there, were you there? When I needed a neighbour were you there? And the creed and the colour and the name don’t matter, Were you there?”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, unite us in your love that we may be “like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind” that we may, “look not only to our own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:2,4) and honour you. Amen

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