Bible Society of South Africa

The testimony of the unity of the church in this world – 28 April 2023

By Ewald Schmidt

Bible text(s)

20“I pray not only for them, but also for those who believe in me because of their message. 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. 22I gave them the same glory you gave me, so that they may be one, just as you and I are one: 23I in them and you in me, so that they may be completely one, in order that the world may know that you sent me and that you love them as you love me.

John 17:20-23GNBOpen in Bible reader

It is the evening before the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus prays for the 11 men sitting with him around the table when they are celebrating the Passover feast. Jesus knows that these 11 men will all abandon him that night. They will run away, scared to death when they see what is in store for Jesus. But after his resurrection, Jesus will gather them once more and teach them his final instructions before it is time to leave for his seat of glory at his Father’s throne. These men would be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They would go out to tell the world about the love of Christ. By their words, our ancestors and we would come to faith, to know that Jesus is MY Lord.

Jesus prays for the testimony that his church should bear over the years that come. He prays that his church will observe the same unity that is between the Father and the Son. We are one in Christ, we should act like it. Through the unity of the church, the message will be conveyed that God really makes people new creatures in Christ.

We do not do so good in our obedience to this command of Christ. It is sad to see the disunity in the church across the world. I am saddened to see the language used among church leaders on Twitter. I am saddened to see how we can be so divided over small doctrinal matters among churches. Even in our congregations, it is hard to be of one mind; we differ so much about small things.

Far above all our petty differences, stands the command of Jesus to love one another as he loves us. (John 15:12). People who came to know the saving grace of Christ must love the other children of God, as he loves us. This does not have to mean that we agree on everything. There might even be huge differences in our interpretation of Scripture and we may defend our opinions with conviction. But more important than all our differences, is the love of Christ for his bride. We are his body in this world, continuing his works of mercy. The Lord of the church commands us to love one another and to seek unity. This bears the testimony that he is Lord. This makes his message believable to the world.

Prayer: Lord, I can so easily get stuck in my ways – to think that I alone have all the insight and am always right. I can be so set in my ways and then I forget to still love people who think differently than I do. Forgive me for that! Teach me to also listen to others and accommodate those who differ from me. Help me to love your other children, because you love them indescribably. Let love guide my words and actions. May your love shine through me! Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
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