What John 15 doesn't say
I have applied the vine and branches passage in John 15:4-5, every time I have read it, to my own personal walk with God. 100% of the time I have viewed the passage like this: If I, Anna, abide in Christ, and I, Anna, seek God and have communion with Him at all times, then I, Anna, will bear much fruit.
Jesus does care about me abiding in the vine, but it is not how Jesus addresses his disciples. This passage has become, through our individualistic Western lens, about individuals each having a fruitful vine with Christ. But Jesus never mentioned multiple vines. He just mentioned that there was one: Him. The ‘you’ mentioned in this passage is not singular, but plural. (Where English cannot make this distinction, Spanish can.) To make it a little clearer, let us make ‘you’ into ‘you, my church’ as we reread Jesus' words:
Jesus loves that we approach Him as individuals, but more than that, He desires to have a united bride.
What was Jesus’ main prayer in John 17 for the people who would come to know Him?
That they would be one…perfectly one…so that the world may know that Jesus was sent and loved us.
Jesus’ main concern for His church was that it would be united!
So what can we do to see unity?
Unity, living in community here in Lima, Peru, has been one of those things we have desired (a prize with much fruit), but that comes at a price. It requires sacrifice. It isn’t fun at times! (But it is worth it!)
Let's take a look at some beautiful biblical fruits to unity:
1. Effective prayer
John 15 tells us that if If we, the church, abide in Him, and His words abide in us, then whatever we ask for, it will be done for us!
Matthew 18:19 tells us that if just two or three agree about anything, it will be done by our Father.
Unity in prayer = answered prayers.
Praying with the boys for a short time each evening, many prayers have been answered. We have seen specific amounts of money released that we have needed before the end of the month, people contact us on specific days, people healed, and strength given to us in situations we have needed it. It is also so encouraging to hear what others feel God is saying about something. Joel our 7-year old son is raising money to take Bibles to indigenous children in local shanty towns and in the Amazon jungle. Trying to get hold of over a hundred Storybook bibles in Spanish without having to import them expensively from the States was becoming a headache. We prayed together and I saw a room full of Bibles being opened. Within an hour Mark had found a new lead in Lima who said they had over a hundred Bibles in storage! Joel had a dream where he saw a room full of money and a room full of Bibles. Although we still do not have the money to buy the Bibles yet, we are able to pray in faith together and because of our unity in prayer we have the confidence that all the Bibles that are needed will be funded!
2. Blessing God’s heart and receiving His blessing.
Psalm 133 tells us that God is blessed by his people living in unity. Where there is unity, the Psalm says, there will be God’s blessing and life forevermore.
We have lived in community now for 4 years. During that time I have seen how unity has become increasingly a blessing. As well as prayers that are responded to quickly and with expectation, there is peace in our lives. (I am talking as a general level not that there are never disagreements!) Often we take it for granted, but when people leave the community to visit others they come back grateful for the level of unity, friendship, prayer and care that the community provides. They crave the peace and loving acceptance that they find here - and their place of belonging.
Unity is not about lack of conflict. We frequently challenge one another, hopefully in love, to sort out misunderstandings and correct behaviour that has caused us offense. Knowing that others will challenge us in love actually brings security and peace in stepping out, knowing that others desire the best for us and hopefully point out where we are out of balance or missing the mark.
3. Limitless possibilities!
God stops the work on the tower of Babel in Genesis 11:6 because God knew that their unity was powerful, but that their motives were wrong! He said that if they continued 'nothing would be impossible for them'! God didn’t want the people to be united for their own sake: He wanted them focused on Him. He knew they could never be happy doing it alone. He wanted unity to be with Him and His Son so that fruitfulness would flow throughout the earth. United with Jesus, the church has limitless possibilities! Whatever we ask, when we remain in Him, will be done! (John 15:7) We will see much fruit! The church will advance and the gates of hell will not prevail against her!
Unity gives people a sense of belonging - a soul home. A secure home is the place where dreams can be dreamed without distractions. Unity supports a community of dreamers who will see limitless possibilities and work together in prayer and action to see them come to pass. I love sharing my dreams and ideas with others and hearing their dreams and ideas and seeing how those things get worked out together in community! It is so much fun to see God's kingdom coming!
Lord, would you inspire us to desire unity and give us courage to pursue unity. Help us to understand that what the enemy hates is unity and one of your main desires is unity. Thank you for your help, Holy Spirit. Amen
What things have you found that promote unity? Is there someone you need to be united with? What is God telling you about the next step?
This is part three in a short series on Righteousness: In Right Relationship. Next post I hope to give some tips and biblical practices for unity.
Here are the other posts you might like to check out from this series: