“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one…”
– John 17:20-23 (NKJV)
Jesus prayed for you and I that we would be one – in unity with God and in unity with each other. Of all the different ways that the church is described in the Bible, I think the body of Christ is the best illustration of all. Like a physical body, no part seeks only it’s own good but works for the good of the whole. Just think about a tightrope walker: every part of his body will work together to keep the whole in balance. If one part decided to do its own thing, the whole body would be in trouble.
We know God wants our church to function in unity, but it goes beyond just our local church. While there are many church congregations, there really is only one body of Christ. When we trust in Jesus to save us, we become part of the same body as every one else who has also trusted in Jesus, no matter what local assembly they attend. You and I are joined not only with believers in our congregation, but with all believers in town and around the world.
While we may acknowledge this, practically speaking, many times we consider the church down the street or on the other end of town as a separate entity – one that we’re in competition with.
One of the more disturbing examples of this is when a grievance occurs between one believer and another, to the point where one of them leaves and transfers membership to another church. I’ve seen members transfer both into and out of our church in the past for personal grievance reasons and I’m sure some of you have too. it’s not supposed to work that way. This turns Christ’s body into a bunch of cliques, dividing the body ( 1 Corinthians 1:10-13).
Two parts of the body of Christ will not work together to reconcile their differences, so they avoid each other, they separate from each other – and yet, regardless of what they may think, they are still part of the same body of Christ. Instead of solving the problem, the body becomes even more dysfunctional, and we all suffer.
The solution is for each of us to humble ourselves and serve one another, focusing on Christ:
Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
– Philippians 2:1-4 (NKJV)
We need to have this attitude towards all believers, no matter what church they go to. We need to be in unity with other churches – doing what is needed to help build them up (Galatians 6:10).
How can we do so? We can fellowship with them, pray for them, supply what they are lacking through what God has blessed us with (Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 8:1-9:15), praising God for their growth. In short, we need to treat them as one of us, because they really are. There should be no “us-them” mentality. We all belong to Christ.