John 17:20-23. 20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
As Jesus and his disciples move toward the garden and the cross, Jesus will pause to pray for them. John 17 is that “high priestly prayer” of Christ for the disciples and for the church. His prayer is for our unity in Christ. Why? Because our unity is how the world will know that the Father sent Jesus and that he loves the world. Our unity is the greatest missionary endeavor on earth, and our greatest gospel witness. And the greatest hindrance to our witness is by far our division.
Unity? Do we even know what this word means anymore? We are more divided as a world and as a church than ever before. In big and in small ways. From our protests over racial issues and law enforcement, to our comments on social media. Almost everything we do in this life is a way to find an identity that actually separates us from others. Politics. Religion. Sports. Style. Culture. There is no understanding in these spheres. There is only my opinions, my ideas, my experiences, my self-justification, my life, my “shrinking self.”
And the church too often isn’t much better than the world. All the things that have kept humanity divided have also kept the church divided. Race, gender, age, politics, all have segregated us. Not to mention our differing styles, methods, doctrines, and values.
But unity isn’t just a pipe dream for Jesus. It’s not “pie in the sky.” It’s his deepest longing and his passionate prayer for the church – that they may all be one. This has been God’s vision for humanity since creation. Unity out of diversity. Two genders forming a whole. Diverse nations worshiping around his throne. Every race, every ethnicity blessed in the Messiah. Living in shalom with one another. Enemies becoming neighbors. Neighbors becoming brothers and sisters. Good Samaritan stuff.
And our union with Christ finally makes it possible – just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us.
How is unity possible? Only when we have a deep experience of union with God through Jesus. Only when, by that union with God, we experience his glory – The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one.
In presenting the cure, Jesus has diagnosed the disease for us. What causes divisions? A lack of glory. Our desperate grasping for meaning and purpose. Needing to make our lives count. Needing to have our voices heard. Something has to make my life valuable, important, significant, justifiable. And whatever that thing is – my politics, my position, my cause, my stance, my ideology, my theology, my ministry, my race, my sexuality, my self – unless it is something bigger than humanity, it will separate me from humanity. It will make me less than human.
Oh sure, you’ll have a handful of friends who think and act just like you. But who does that glorify? Whose life does that witness to? Not Jesus.
We need a greater glory if unity is ever to be achieved. We need the glory of Christ in us. His cause. His stance. His position. His ideology. His theology. His mission. His love for the world – I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
That the world may know that God loves them through Jesus. Now that’s a cause worth uniting around.
“To live is Christ” IS our unity. His shared life in us. His love in each of us individually, and in us collectively. This is a unity that is empowered by a greater glory, a higher love, that drives us toward each other and the world. Never away. Never apart. Never alone. Never ashamed.
Can you see where your thirst for glory has kept you separated from others?
You in Christ
Are you trusting in your union with Christ as your source of glory and love?
Christ in you
How can understanding your union with God in Christ allow you to seek greater unity with others, both in the church and in the world?
Playlist: Songs of unity.