I don’t know when or who originated the term, “The Divided States of America,” but you’ve heard it. Seen it. And felt it.
The current political polarization is witnessed by the divide between Republicans and Democrats. Liberals and conservatives. Red states and blue states. Trumpers and Never-Trumpers. And religious and non-religious.
While it’s disheartening to see the division among fellow citizens, our country’s history reflects past problems that have separated us by social, political or cultural issues. The Civil War serves as such a reminder.
However, sadder to see is division among Christians. Today’s Bible reading in John 17 reminds us that Jesus’ prayer in the shadow of the cross was for unity.
After praying for Himself, and then praying for His current disciples, He prayed for all future believers. For me. And for you.
“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)
Jesus Prayed for Unity Among Ourselves
The lyrics of a popular old hymn reflect this sentiment. “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.
Jesus Prayed for Unity in our Witness 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.”
Jesus Prayed for Our 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.
Jesus Prayed for Unity Based On Truth
Unity, however, is dependent upon our belief, acceptance, and adherence to the Truth. God’s Word, Jesus affirms, is Truth. It is unchanging.
I don’t know who coined the phrase, but our age suffers from “truth decay.” Modern culture views truth as being relative. Humanistic professors spread the lie that there are “no absolutes.” And even some religious leaders spout phrases like “It doesn’t matter what you believe (or do) as long as you’re honest and sincere.” Like the ancient pagan world, our society has “exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator….” (Rom. 1:25)
Jesus’ prayer teaches that we are sanctified by the Truth. The word “sanctify” is akin to the word “holy.” Christians are to be consecrated to Christ. Thayer says it means “to be separate from things profane.” Sanctification is about our spiritual identity. Sanctification produces justification. Purifies our souls. Cleanses our consciences. Makes our hearts right with God (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
Even as we live in “The Divided States of America,” and endure listening to the vitriolic language spurred by post-election problems, we can be united. Together. In Christ. In Truth.
Let’s not allow political differences to divide us. Let’s make Jesus’ prayer a reality in our lives. Our homes. And our churches.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman