The story is told of a little child in an African village who got lost when he wandered off into the tall jungle grass. Family and tribe members stomped all day through the thick grass, frantically seeking the lost boy. The end of the day, however, he was not found.
The next day someone suggested every tribe member hold hands so they could comb through the grass without missing any area. Eventually they found the body of the child who had died during the cold night.
With tears of anguished the mother cried out: “If only we would have held hands sooner.”
This story may be an urban legend. I’m not sure. But it makes it good point. It reminds us of the need for unity among God’s people.
Did you know that Jesus prayed that we might “hold hands”? And join hearts? That we might be united together as one.
Just prior to his betrayal, trial and crucifixion, Jesus poured his heart out to the Father. It’s recorded in John 17. There are three parts to the prayer.
First, He prayed for Himself. That he might continue to glorify God in the completion of his mission to earth.
Secondly, He prayed for the disciples. For their faithfulness. For their fortitude in overcoming temptation. For their future work. For their joy. And for their sanctification.
But thirdly. He prayed for us! Really? Yes, listen to these words.
“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (Jn 17:20-23, ESV)
How encouraging is it for us to think Christ prayed for us? For those of us who have believed through the revealed Word of the apostles. For those who call ourselves Disciples of Christ. But consider what he prayed.
1. For unity among ourselves. There is an old hymn “Blessed be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love.” In unity there is a blessing. It shows our divine sanctification. The filial fellowship of our Family. The oneness of the spiritual Body. God never intended for us to go it alone. We need each other.
2. For unity in our testimony to the world. Too often the Christian community has been guilty of divisiveness. Disunity. Disharmony. Jesus prayed that we might be joined together. Unified in heart. Soul. Purpose.
Our unity serves as a powerful testimonial to unbelievers. The world needs to see our faith. Our love. Our hope. And that we are a family that joins hands to help others. Thomas Manton’s observation is accurate: “Our divisions make us a laughing-stock to the enemy, and then a prey.
3. For unity with the Father. Division hampers our fellowship with God. Hinders our relationship. Is a handicap to Divine intimacy.
In Psalm 133 God promises his favor on his people who dwell together in unity. A. W. Tozer, a preacher and author of the early 20th century, commented on Psalm 133 this way. He suggests that we think of God’s blessings flowing into us like electricity coming into our homes. The power is available, but if a fuse is blown, the flow is stopped. He suggests that unity is the fuse between the power of God’s Spirit and the benefits of spiritual “electricity” in our lives.
Granted, unity is, at times, challenging. Difficult. Daunting. But Jesus’ prayer give us a basis. The Word. Adherence to the Truth of God’s word will sanctify us. Save us. And produce oneness.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman