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Did Jesus Waste a Prayer?

The past three months I have been helping to teach our youth in Confirmation. It amazes me how insightful and theological their questions are.  Call me crazy, but I love it when they ask a question so deep I don’t have a great answer.  I like thinking, reading, and praying over a question. 

One of the questions I have been wrestling with is, why did Jesus ask for so little in his famous prayer in John 17?  This prayer was his last recorded prayer before he was arrested.  One would think that he would have squeezed in lots of important requests to God for his disciples.  Remarkably, what he prayed for is quite simple and to the point.  He asked God to make his disciples holy, he asked that they could be with him eternally, but primarily he asked for the unity of all his disciples.  John 17:23 says, “I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”  There is no mention of healing, evangelism, or even justice, all of which we know Jesus cared deeply about. 

The more I read Scripture, the more convinced I am that the unity of the Church is of the utmost importance to God.  God is by God’s own Trinitarian nature united.  Could it be that if we as a Church (universal) focused more of our efforts on loving each other, than evangelism, truth, equality or anything else, that these things would fall into place in the process?  I hope you join me in wrestling with this question, and may we be united to each other in a life-giving and captivating love. --Andrew

Posted by Casey Thompson at 1:10 PM
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3/6/2013 at 02:27 PM by Casey Thompson

Great question, Andrew. I would love to talk more about where the boundaries are. Is seeking unity more foundational to the gospel, for instance, than standing up for love? Where does this leave us in 'correcting' a believer who holds what we think is a deeply non-Christian position (white supremacy, for instance)? How do we receive correction ourselves so we are not the offensive party that creates disunity? You've hit on a rich area for discussion, I think.

3/12/2013 at 10:35 AM by Andrew Hostetter

Great questions Casey. I think the dilemma you bring up makes me wonder if there is such a thing as false unity or hollow unity. I see true unity intimately connected with true love. Say a mother has a child who only wants to eat ice cream. Would it be loving to let child eat nothing but ice cream? Clearly it is more loving to seek the greater good for her child and feed her food that will better nourish her. In a similar fashion, I think that God calls us to unity in a way that seeks the greatest good for everyone, which may mean confronting someone, in love, who is straying from the truth. That being said, I don't think this is an easy thing to do, nor do I think there is a set template that shows us how to do it. But I think that when we are successful, the group will be stronger as a whole for doing it. I am interested to hear others take on this.

3/12/2013 at 04:54 PM by Casey Thompson

"Straying from the truth..." I think that's the difficult navigating point--as different parts of the body of Christ have differing understandings of the bedrock core of the gospel. I wonder if unity can happen if we don't take an attitude of potentially being wrong into all our discussion of how others have strayed. As I said, I tend to think on this a great deal--especially being at a church with a wide variety of belief.

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