Theme “That, they may all be one"
Bible reading: John 17:1-11
“I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one.”
Today is the first Sunday after the historic ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to heaven. And I thank God for your life through all the changing scenes of life as we continue to live through COVID-19. I am constantly praying for you and I am confident that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.
Have you ever heard the saying that “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”?
Jesus’ prayer for his disciples before his arrest illustrates this saying that “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”
Jesus ended his discourse in the upper room with prayer to the Father. He prayed at length for himself and the protection and the unity of the disciples and the elect.
Despite the fact that Jesus prayed for unity to prevail among his disciples and followers, sadly, we see intense dislike for one another within the body of Christ leading to hatred and disunity. And this is not seen only in the church but in other personal relationships that are broken down completely because of lack of unity.
Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that anger leads to murder, and anger is just as bad as murder itself. And that whosoever is angry with his brother or sister shall be judged by God. This shows that resolving disputes and conflicts and reconciliation should take priority over anything else in our lives as believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, if we want to maintain unity in our endeavours and relationships.
Jesus says that “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgement.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgement” (Matthew 5:21-22).
Jesus goes on to say in the Beatitudes that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).
This shows that hatred and disunity is human and sinful but making peace is loving and divine. This unity is based in Jesus. By his death and resurrection, Jesus opened the way to new alliances for us who had formerly been without grace and were enemies of God (Eph. 2:12-13). But through faith in Jesus, we now become part of a new nation, reconciled to God and capable to living in genuine fellowship of a visible unity.
Unity is accepting one another and living together in peace irrespective of our human failures and weaknesses. And this unity is fostered and maintained only by the work of the Holy Spirit, the agent of the new birth, the source of life in the believer, and the giver of the fruit of the Spirit (John 3: 5; Ephesians 4:4).
The Holy Spirit transforms believers into brothers and sisters in Christ and also into brothers and sisters to each other irrespective of colour, race or gender. When we are one as Jesus prayed for us to be, we shall always bring joy into the lives of those who surround us.
Unfortunately, because the unity that Jesus prayed for is not being seen in our fellowship, there is the need for this prayer to be re-echoed this time. In the heat of the moment, we often become enemies to one another for unknown reasons. Let us not forget that in this High Priestly Prayer, the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for unity among his followers.
And like the disciples, this unity cannot be realised without yielding to the work and greater influence of the Holy Spirit in our individual lives as well as in our fellowship.
I, therefore, pray that the Spirit of God would lead us all to greater discipline and maturity and repentance to maintain this unity that the Lord Jesus Christ prayed for through prayer, love, joy, peace-making, endurance, forgiveness, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and above all, greater self-control.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
And may the grace of Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God and the sweet fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with us all now and always!
Rev. Confidence Bansah (Ph. D.)
Minister of St. George’s and Christ Church