How to Unity

John 17:23 (Jesus praying) May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Recently I met with some Christian women whom I both highly respect and admire. We had been jointly praying about a matter for some time. As we prayed, it became apparent we were hearing distinctly different messages from God on this particular subject. This was confusing and disheartening to me. I was having a hard time understanding how we could be hearing such completely different guidance from the same God.

Today I am reading Acts 21:1-17. Paul and his companions have traveled from Miletus to Jersusalem. Along the way, Paul is urged (Verse 4) and pleaded with (Verse 12) not to go to Jerusalem by many sincere, dedicated Christians. Paul will not be dissuaded and journeys to Jerusalem despite the objections of many people.

I analyze this passage and try and figure out who was hearing from God. Surely all those people couldn't have been giving Paul bad advice when they implored him not to go to Jerusalem. Then again, Paul is the early church leader whom I most admire. Surely someone of his spiritual stature could not make a mistake of this size and proportion and was hearing from God on this issue. No matter how hard I try to figure this out with my mind, I end up right back at the same dilemma.

I will probably never know who was right and who was wrong in Paul's scenario or in mine. One thing is very clear to me, though. Jesus wants unity in the church above all other things. When praying for the future church in John 17, Jesus could have prayed for hundreds of different things. Yet He prayed for only one - unity.

It is human nature for every competition to end with a winner and loser; for every argument to end with one party being right and the other being wrong. Through this issue, it has become clear to me that at times in issues of the heart and the church, the winner and right is maintaining unity. Paul's supporters did not get angry with him, turn their backs on him or stop praying for him over this issue. In fact, they sent him off with prayer (Verse 5) and with complete trust in God (Verse 14). Why? How?

The only answer I can come up with is humility and grace. True humility means allowing others to disagree with me without secretly thinking how misguided they are. True grace means allowing others to stumble when they disagree with me and not think, "I told you so" to myself.

Jesus, it is clear to me that I still need to grow in the areas of humility and grace. Today I submit my right to be right to You. I choose unity over winning. I choose unity over being right. Fill me with Your grace that it might splash all over those around me as I pray, walk and live with Your people today.

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