Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.John 17:11
God unifies believers for reaching the world for Christ. Each fall I like to attend the horse pull at the county fair. This event is a favorite because I love horses and I love watching them work together. The horses are harnessed together in teams of two and are required to pull a sled loaded with cement blocks. To remain in the competition, the horse teams must pull the weighted sled a minimum distance without stopping. More weight is added to the sled after each successful pull until no horse team can pull the weight the required distance. The last team standing is declared the winner. The team that wins must not only be powerful, but must also pull in unison when they hear their owner’s command to pull. Horses that are not pulling together usually make a quick exit from the competition, no matter their strength.
Jesus asks his Father to protect his followers so that they might be unified, associating this desire with the greater purpose of his mission in the world. Jesus’ time on earth is ending and his followers, both current and future, will be left with the responsibility of testifying about him to the world. The success of this mission depends on their pulling together in him. I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. (John 17:20–21).
The image of these horses – yoked together and pulling in unison as they respond to the one that bound them together – illustrates what Christian unity ought to look like. Unity is possible when believers accept they are joined by Christ and not because of their own choice. Unity happens when believers who accept that they are joined together by Christ actively seek to obey God above all.
People who place God at the center of their lives in this way recognize that everyone is a spiritual work in progress. This does not mean that every doctrine is open for debate in the service of some false unity. Rather, resting firmly on the truth of Christ, believers approach each other with a more generous orthodoxy that seeks to promote God’s mission in the world above their own. As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:12–14).
Let’s pray – Thank you Father for joining me with other believers. I confess that this is both necessary for your mission and good for my faith. I surrender my preferences and opinions to you today. Reveal those attitudes in me that undermine Christian unity so that I might repent. Show me the pathway to peace. In Jesus name, Amen.