I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22, 23 NIV)
These verses are part of an entire chapter of prayer Jesus lifts up to God before He begins the journey to the cross. In this chapter a central theme of His prayer is unity. Jesus prays time and time again that those who follow Him would enjoy the same unity that Jesus shares with his Heavenly Father. Jesus prays that others would know you are a follower of Jesus by that unity.
I wondered for a moment, why pray for unity? Of all the things Jesus could have prayed for before he left why that? I believe Jesus knew all to well how challenging unity amongst His followers would be.
Unity is so challenging, especially with “that” person. You know the one who sees everything wrong, you know wrong, as in not just like I do. Jesus knew that churches would become hot beds of disunity if we were not careful. You have sat next to someone at church who votes for a different candidate that you do. That person thinks your greatest passions are not that important to them or the greater church. Your favorite ministry of the church is one that the person next to you wonders why it gets so much attention. Your favorite song makes the person next to you fall asleep or maybe even put in ear plugs.
Jesus knew that our preferences can quickly become how we measure and evaluate. If it’s not done my way, it’s bad. If my preference is not validated, you are a bad person; if my preferences are not the priority of my church I can say, I am not being fed.
Jesus knew that our greatest witness to others is by embodying his teaching in our actions, and that others would see Christ (for good or bad) in that example. So Jesus prayed for us to be one as He and God are one. And I think that’s a prayer that we all should be lifting up.
Jesus, help us to focus more on your Will, than our wants.
Help us to humbly submit to the leadership you have given to our community.
Help us to reflect your love all the time, not just when we get what we want.
Help us to have unity in the Body of Christ that will show the world the great love you have blessed us with.
1. Think of a time in your life when a different of preferences led to conflict at church. How could you have worked better towards unity?
2. What is your greatest challenge when it comes to this picture of Christian unity?