“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” – John 17:20-23.
One of the phrases in the pledge of allegiance is “one nation under God.” But turn on your TV, watch the news or read anything online or on social media, and it certainly doesn’t feel that way. It seems that we are far less like the United States and a lot more like divided States. We are not so much under God, but under the banner of all different kinds of camps and parties and movements and agendas moving in different directions and all claiming to be the way. Not only are we moving in different directions, but we have become opposed to each other.
Hopefully, we as the church look and act and sound different. In John 17, on the day before Jesus will first be arrested and then will go to the cross to be put to death for the sin of all mankind, Jesus gathers His disciples together, and He prays a prayer. Jesus is praying, not just for His disciples who were with Him, but also for you and me and all Christians everywhere who would believe in Him. Think about that for a second: long before you ever had a thought about God, God was thinking about you. Long before you ever asked for Him, Jesus was asking the Father for you. That’s how much you’re loved and wanted by God. Jesus says my prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in Me through their message.
What you repeatedly hear in Jesus’ prayer is that God wants unity for His people. Unity can mean different things for different people. Jesus says that our unity is to be like the unity that He has with His Father. In other words, our unity as brothers and sisters in Christ is meant to be a replica, a reflection of the kind of unity that exists in the Trinity, where God the Father and God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit dwell together in oneness. And yet, at the same time, they are three distinct persons.
So unity is not uniformity in the sense that we’re the same, because we’re not the same. There is to be diversity in our unity. It’s good that we’re different. God knew that we would look different and think differently. We might like some different things, have some different preferences. We might do some different things, and get this, we might vote differently. And yet, we are according to God to be one.
Jesus’ prayer for His church, Jesus’ prayer for us, was for our unity. A united church is a powerful tool. Paul says we exist as a church so, “…all of you can join together with one voice, giving praise and glory to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 15:6) When the world sees love and unity, it is a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel. Let us work even harder to improve our unity by the love we show in the communities we serve.
- How important is living in harmony?
- How would you describe the power and impact of unity? When or where have you experienced that?
- What can you do to become more of a force for unity?