Unity:John 17

by Pastor Mike McBride on September 5, 2013
Unity - John 17
 Pastor Mike McBride
I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 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. (John 17:20-21)
Unity is hard. Pride and ambition make us impatient with others. Difficult issues are often easier to avoid in the short-term. Even the Apostles experienced difficulty in unity (Acts 15:39). We all experience the difficulty of unity in all kinds of situations. But unity is worthwhile, even useful in the work of the gospel. 

Did you notice the purpose of Christian unity according to Jesus' prayer? Jesus is not simply praying for unity for unity's sake. The very structure of the sentence communicates a purpose. Jesus is asking the Father to do one thing so that, or in order that, this other thing will happen. He prays, give them unity, so that "the world may believe that you sent me." Christian unity is not simply for the peace of the church as it stands now, but for the purpose of witnessing to the world that Jesus is the Messiah sent from the Father. Despite the example of the disagreement between Paul and 
​Barnabas in Acts 15, the Apostles demonstrated a remarkable unity despite their diverse backgrounds: Peter commends Paul's teaching (2 Peter 3:15), they engage difficult theological issues and come to agreement (Acts 11 and 15), and they proclaim the gospel with amazing consistency. And the world took notice.
But how did they do it? Well, they had a great model. Jesus prayed 'may [they] be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you'. God the Father, Son (and Holy Spirit) have the perfect relationship with one another - always acting out of concern for the others, never jealous or envious of the others, and always satisfied by the love of the others. This is true unity, the type of unity Jesus wants for his disciples. But notice that Jesus did not simply pray for his disciples to follow God's model. Instead he prayed that his disciples would be drawn into their perfect relationship, to experience the unity of the Holy Trinity itself. And when that happened, people noticed. When it happens today, people notice, and will continue to notice.