What are the limits of cross-denominational partnership?
In John 17, we hear the Son of God pour out His deepest heart-wrenching desires to the Father. Facing the cross, Jesus prayed some rather unexpected words.
Instead of praying for Himself, for strength, for some way out, Jesus prayed that His death and His followers would honor God.
I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me. I have given them the glory You have given Me. May they be one as We are one. I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me (John 17:20-23, HCSB).
In His great high-priestly prayer, Jesus asked the Father that He would complete all the Father had sent Him to do. “Glorify me,” He says, “as I glorify you.” Then His attention abruptly turned to everyone who believes in the name of Christ.
These words are only a small part of His prayer, but they are a salient part. He prayed that His followers would be one. He prayed for unity through which somehow the world might know who God is.
Jesus said that the manner in which believers unite with one another would prove to the world that He is God. That command is a tall order, reminiscent of John 13:34-35, “I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Unity in Denominations
No one in the church world that I know disagrees with these powerful statements. The real question is how to apply Jesus’ words, and how we live those words in our churches. That verse is a broad command, right? “The church should be united.”
We can see unity on the denominational level. Though not perfect, many denominations began for the singular purpose of unity.