One of the troubles with “unity” is that even the word sounds soppy. There’s nothing crisp or attractive about it. Synonyms such as “togetherness” or “oneness” are no better. They neither grab the heart or capture the imagination.

Yet it was so important to Jesus that he spent considerable time praying about it on the very night he was arrested. As he prepared for trial and death, and as he prepared his disciples to be without him, we have his longest prayer on record (John 17) – and it’s about unity!

“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you 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).

Later in the New Testament, the same subject is no less important to Paul. Significant column inches are devoted to coaching whole churches and their leaderships to discover, or rediscover, the basis of unity where there are personality differences, theological differences and racial differences. Whole chapters teaching us love for one another, the priority of reconciliation and the patterns of order to prioritise harmony in the church.

And the foundation of all unity, foreseen in Jesus’ prayer and addressed with great clarity by Paul, is that unity between Jesus’ Jewish disciples, the Jewish believers that form the foundation of the church, and those of us who subsequently believe in Jesus through their message, Gentiles the world over. Jesus prayed that we remain as one so that the world may believe (John 17:21-22). Paul taught about Gentile believers gaining citizenship alongside their Jewish-believing brethren and forming one temple, indwelt by the Spirit (Ephesians 2:11-22). In fact one of the really central events of the whole New Testament story was the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) to preserve this unity.

So why is it that we find it so easy to justify division? And what is it about evangelicals (in particular) that cause us to separate over pretty-much everything? Why, in our hierarchies of truths and doctrines that we adhere to like limpets, is unity not right up there at the top of the stack?


  1. Paddy Monaghan

    I agree. I think unity in the Body is the key subplot behind TJCII. I believe that God’s heart is paining because of the divisions in the Body. I think it is only as Catholic, Protestant, Pentecostal etc rediscover the Jewish roots of our faith that we will find a real unity that is Jeshua centred and scripture based. Well done on site.

  2. Dominic McDermott

    I believe that the problem lies in the fact that we want unity of doctrine before we want unity of the heart, when we desire unity of the heart the Holy Spirit will show us His way to unity of doctrine.

  3. Many of us IMHO, Dom, have been programmed by our upbringing to connect with God as a belief system prior to connecting with Him as a person. As you say, the Holy Spirit connects our hearts to doctrine, and He also connects us to each other.

  4. Tom Harrison

    Many people argue that unity is an end state – a position only realized when Jesus returns. This view is used to excuse separation and division between God’s people. The idea that disunity is inevitable until judgement day leads to its acceptance.
    Unfortunately identity and status is found in our differences. Style, culture and doctrine are our heritage. It is possible for our foundation to be rooted in who we are rather than in Christ. Too much time is spent scrutinising one another rather than looking to Jesus, our Great High Priest.

  5. Ruth Marriott

    I’ve always read the decision of the Jerusalem Council as primarily about whether Jews would ‘let the Gentiles in to their club’, and on what terms. Our self-centred perspective today can be about whether we Gentiles would ‘let the Jews into our club’, and on what terms. It happens with different cultures of all nations – the worldview we’re born into seems the only right way to us. It would help us all to get a less self-centred view, and saw the situation more from God’s Kingdom perspective – who does He want in His family, and on what terms? To understand what a privilege it is to be ‘let in’, and realise we all have to yield our own cultural viewpoint in deference to the Kingdom culture which is new and somewhat wonderfully unfamiliar to us all.

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